08/28/1995 at 01:00 AM EDT
AS AN EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES paramedic working the streets of New York City, nine-year veteran Adam Brynes has often had to rise to perilous occasions. But never higher than on Aug. 12, when he was summoned at 12:20 p.m. to the Empire State Building—where an elevator bound for the 80th floor had run amok and crashed into the top of the elevator shaft. Brynes quickly learned that four injured tourists were trapped inside the jammed, disabled car. After the New York Police Department Emergency Service Unit cut a hole four feet wide by five feet high in the side of the stranded car, Brynes entered the elevator from the top of an adjacent elevator car. To do so, he had to jump across 4½ & feet-but it was an 800-foot drop to the ground below. "There were no lights, so I couldn't see down, and that made the jump easier," says the strapping Brynes, 29. "I told myself it was like leaping over a puddle without getting my feet wet."
Once inside the disabled car, Brynes quickly tended to the passengers—Connecticut minister Dennis Smith, 32; his wife, Jacqueline, 33; Israeli tourist Tova Rosenzweig; and her son Asaf, 13—all of whom had suffered multiple injuries to the head, neck and back. Finally, Brynes and an ESU rescuer strapped the victims onto six-foot-long boards and passed the injured from the hole of the disabled car to rescuers waiting atop the adjoining car. (All four were admitted to Bellevue Hospital Center that afternoon. At press time, only the Smiths had been released.)
Brynes wasn't rattled at all until reporters descended in droves upon the newly declared local hero. After his trial by media, Brynes says, "I got my bike and started home to Brooklyn." There he received an earful from fiancée Robin Lind, 27, who playfully chastised him for not wearing a safety harness. "I said, 'I love you,' " says Lind, an executive assistant for Local 2507, the union that represents EMS workers. "But I also told him, don't even think about doing it again—unless you get a million-dollar insurance policy."