'In the right place at the right time': Aurora man honored for rescue of driver stuck on tracks
For an hour, Lewis Medina stood against the back wall during Tuesday's Kane County Board meeting, anxiously holding his wife Julie's hand the entire time as he waited to be recognized for an act of heroism that saved a man's life last month.
"I was nervous all morning, but she comforts me," Medina said afterward. "I feel better now that it's over."
Medina, who pulled an unresponsive driver out of his vehicle stuck on train tracks in Aurora just seconds before it was hit by a train, was awarded the 2021 Roscoe Ebey Citizen of the Year award by Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain.
"It is critical that we take time to recognize those citizens who go above and beyond in our community," Hain said.
Saying he couldn't do the incident justice by recounting it himself, Hain played the audio from the 911 call Medina made during those dramatic moments on Oct. 9.
Medina listened intently, frequently dropping his head and closing his eyes. The events in the recording unfolded just as he had described to the media last month, right down to the "Oh my gosh, there's a train coming" moment when he realized the situation was truly dire.
At about 8:30 that evening, Medina was driving from his home in Aurora when he saw a vehicle stuck with its tires spinning on the train tracks at Barnes Road in Sugar Grove Township.
Medina parked his car in a safe spot and checked on the driver, who was unresponsive due to a medical emergency. As Medina called 911 and struggled to free the 72-year-old Aurora man, he saw the lights of an oncoming train.
"I knew it was close, but I couldn't leave him on the tracks. There was no way," Medina recounted later. "I had to get him out."
Medina, 60, pulled the man from the vehicle, who fell "like an anchor" straight down onto the tracks. He said he was able to grab the man by his arm and pants and fling him off the tracks, but they were still too close. He rolled him down the hill seconds before the train hit.
A tear rolled down Medina's masked cheek Tuesday as the recording reached that dramatic finish, with the train smashing into the vehicle. Hain frequently placed a reassuring hand on Medina's back.
After the applause died down, Hain and former Sheriff Pat Perez, a longtime acquaintance of Medina's, handed him the award.
"I was at the right place at the right time, and I'm thankful for that," Medina said.
Hain said the driver was doing well but unable to attend the ceremony.
Medina said he's had enough attention from the rescue, but he'll still be keeping an eye out in case he needs to jump into action again.
"I'll be looking," he said. "That's what I'd do anyway even without all this."