No really knows how he or she will react when faced with a situation in which their life is placed in jeopardy to save another person.
Billy Higgins of Tiltonsville found himself in that situation on Dec. 8, 2010, while driving on state Route 7 near Shadyside when he witnessed an accident involving a car and a tractor-trailer. The car immediately caught fire after it was rear-ended and the impact sent the car off the road over an embankment.
Higgins parked his vehicle and ran over the hill. He tried to bust the window to get the elderly driver out. Another motorist gave him a hammer to break the window. Higgins used his pocketknife to cut the seat belt, with flames dangerously close in the rear of the vehicle.
He pulled the man out of the burning car, and, with the help of others, dragged him a safe distance away.
Higgins didn't realize it at the time but he suffered second- and third-degree burns on his face and hand and wrist. Despite the efforts of Higgins, the elderly man died later that day from injuries suffered in the wreck.
Someone nominated Higgins for a Carnegie hero award. The award was started by Andrew Carnegie in response to a coal mine explosion in 1904 and the heroic efforts of two people who entered the mine in ill-fated rescue attempts. Carnegie set aside $5 million to recognize heroic efforts of civilians, sometimes that ended in the hero dying in a rescue attempt.
To date, more than 9,000 Carnegie hero medals have been awarded.
Higgins joins a list of Upper Ohio Valley residents who also have received the Carnegie hero award.
Five Steubenville residents have received the award. Three of those were the result of industrial or mining accidents. One recipient was Otis Minniefield Jr., at the time a 25-year-old city sanitation department employee, who jumped into the river on April 17, 1968, in an attempt to save the life of a woman who fell into the Ohio River. Minniefield was pulled under by the weight of his work boots and drowned. Sylvester J. Banks, 48, of Steubenville, who had a serious heart condition and limited use of his legs, also jumped into the river and pulled the woman to safety.
Paul M. Voitko of Mingo Junction pulled a woman out of a vehicle that had drifted into the Ohio River in Steubenville on July 20, 1962, and pulled her safely to shore as the vehicle sank.
Heroes don't ask for the title. They earn it by their unselfish actions where they put their own lives in jeopardy to save another. Some of their stories end sadly.
Higgins deserved the Carnegie hero award.
Ask yourself what would you do in the same situation.