He Jumped in Front of a Subway Train—to Rescue a Stranger

updated 01/22/2007 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/22/2007 AT 01:00 AM EST

Wesley Autrey, 50
New York, N.Y.

On Jan. 2 Autrey planned to drop his two young daughters off with their mother before heading to his construction job. He was a little late for work, though—one of those subway delays. Waiting on his Harlem platform, Autrey saw 20-year-old film student Cameron Hollopeter suffer a seizure and fall onto the tracks. "The downtown train was coming," recalls the genial Navy vet. "I'm thinking, 'Somebody's got to help this guy.' My mind said, 'Fool, you the only one here.'" Autrey leaped onto the tracks and, with the train less than 10 feet away, pinned down the thrashing Hollopeter in a 21-inch-deep drainage trough between the rails. "The first car rubbed the cap I was wearing. I'm like, 'Sir, I don't know you and you don't know me, but please don't move." To Autrey's eternal relief, "I'm 175 lbs. If I'd been carrying more weight ..."

Instead he lived to shake hands with Hollopeter at the hospital (where Cameron is in stable condition). Autrey's heroics won him instant celebrity, with appearances on Letterman and Ellen, a $10,000 check from Donald Trump and a U.S. Senate resolution in his honor. "What better way to start out the new year," he says, "than to save somebody's life?"

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