Firefighter Adam Rivera stood straight, feet slightly apart and stared expressionless as his proud mother, Lynn, stood beside him and several local politicians praised him at the recent Dyker Heights Civic Association meeting.
When the accolades and applause from association members finally finished, and he was asked to speak, the words came uncomfortably as it happens when one is shy about speaking in front of groups of people.
"Everybody here is very gracious and kind, but I was just doing my job and happy to be doing it," he said.
But Rivera, who was born and raised in the Dyker Heights/Bay Ridge area and works out of Engine Company #10 in Lower Manhattan, clearly went above and beyond the call of duty.
The incident began on the night of August 21, when Rivera was coming home from an anniversary dinner with his girlfriend.
"We were waiting for the N train at 14th Street Union Square and I noticed on the downtown platform people panicking and looking distressed, so I moved closer to the platform edge and saw across the tracks a man flat on his back and not moving on the downtown express tracks," recalled Rivera.
Rivera said the next thing he noticed was the lights of a downtown express train approaching.
"I didn't see anybody helping him so at that point I just kind of reacted," he said.
Rivera leapt down, crossed two sets of tracks including the electric third rails, and approached the man, who was unconscious and bleeding badly from the back of the head. At this point, he hoisted the man up and brought him to the edge of the platform where two other straphangers helped get him on the platform as the incoming train screeched to a halt about 50 feet in front of him.
State Sen. Marty Golden, one of the officials who gave Rivera a citation for his bravery, noted that he went above and beyond the call of duty in saving the man.
He is also a fine example of the some of the great people who come from the local community, Golden said.
Rivera has been a firefighter since last July and he clearly enjoys his chosen career.
"I've always been a big believer in public service, and as a lifelong resident, the idea of serving the city I grew up in and defending it in any way I could appealed to me," said Rivera.
"The tradition and honor that comes with being in the (New York) fire department is really important to me," he added