Aurora hero who saved man from oncoming train awarded the Carnegie Medal
The Aurora hero who rescued an unresponsive man from an SUV stuck on railroad tracks seconds before it was hit by a train last year has been honored again -- this time by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission.
And he still believes anyone else in his position would have done the same.
Lewis Medina is one of 16 people in the most recent batch of honorees, including two suburbanites, who will be presented the prestigious Carnegie Medal, awarded to individuals throughout the United States and Canada who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree saving or attempting to save the lives of others.
Antonio Raul Rivera of Bolingbrook, who disarmed and tackled a man who was repeatedly stabbing Rivera's neighbor, will also be honored.
"It's wild. This was the furthest thing from my mind," Medina said. "I'm so overwhelmed and thankful."
Medina was driving his daughter and grandson home on the evening of Oct. 9 when he saw an SUV stuck on the train tracks near his Aurora home. Medina called 911 and got out to help the unresponsive 72-year-old driver, right at the time he realized a train was bearing down on them.
"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, a 60-year-old construction worker, pulled the large 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.
"As soon as I get down the hill, bam, it was over," he said. "I looked up to the right, and the train smashed the car. It was a matter of seconds."
The SUV was thrown about 1,000 feet.
Medina was awarded the 2021 Roscoe Ebey Citizen of the Year award by Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain and was also named the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago's Lifesaving Rescue Hero at the organization's annual Heroes Breakfast.
"When I hear hero, I cringe," he said. "I don't know why. I just feel like I did what I'm supposed to do.
"I refuse to accept that somebody else in that position wouldn't do the same thing."
Andrew Carnegie established the awards in 1904 after hearing about two men who died trying to rescue co-workers during a mine collapse near Pittsburgh.
The "hero fund" is administered by a 21-member commission in Pittsburgh, which to date has awarded 10,307 medals to honorees selected from more than 100,000 nominees.
About 20% of the medals are awarded posthumously. Awardees are announced four times a year.
Those who are selected are awarded the Carnegie Medal, and they, or their survivors, become eligible for financial considerations including one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits and continuing assistance.
More than $40 million has been given to awardees or their survivors over the life of the fund.
Medina will be honored during an upcoming ceremony. Details are still being worked out, and he said he wasn't sure how much the grant amount would be. He found out about the award about a week ago but could tell only his family until the commission's official announcement.
"My wife got all teary-eyed, and my daughter said 'I told you so,'" he said. Medina had known he was under consideration but never thought the award was a real possibility, despite his daughter Hannah telling him to be ready to be surprised.
"It's nice to get 'I told you so' on good news."