Two years ago, a Nevada Middle School gym teacher confronted a student gunman who had already wounded others. With compassion and persuasion she convinced him to put down his weapon embracing him until authorities arrived.
She was one of three national winners who this week were awarded the Above & Beyond Citizen Honor. The honors are unique, because they are personally presented to unsung heroes by our nations most honored heroes, the 109 living Medal of Honor recipients themselves. Brian Williams and Colin Powell hosted the first annual ceremony on March 25, declared as Medal of Honor Day last year by Congress. The Washington, DC gala will be broadcast to the nation on MSNBC this Sunday evening, March 30.
Jencie Fagan of Reno, Nevada, said it was a “huge” experience to receive the award for her part in disarming the school shooter. Matthew Miller, a 22-year-old student of Fridley, Minnesota, was also honored for going above and beyond during his courageous rescue of survivors in the I-35W bridge collapse.
On August 1, 2007, Miller, a college senior, was part of a summer construction crew working on the 35W bridge in Minneapolis when on his way to work he watched in horror as the bridge buckled and collapsed. The Above and Beyond website described the scene: “Ignoring his own safety, Miller climbed down into the wreckage to look for survivors. Trained in first aid, he helped four injured co-workers get to a place of safety before following cries for help from the riverbank. Rappelling down a cliff, Miller pulled eight people out of their smashed cars and the river that day and stayed long after the first respondents left, making repeat trips to look for more survivors. Later that night, an exhausted Miller helped load people onto Coast Guard boats and drove the injured to the hospital in a company truck that he had turned into a makeshift ambulance. Miller’s selfless actions that day resulted in more than ten lives being saved.” The Twin Cities press covered the story of Matthew receiving the award.
The day in Reno, when Jencie heard shooting in her school, she ran into the hallway and discovered an armed 14-year-old student randomly firing at his fellow classmates. “Ushering nearby students to cover, Fagan, with complete disregard for her own safety, called out the student’s name and approached him. Engaging him in an empathetic conversation, she was able to focus all of the boy’s attention on her and away from the others. Earning his trust, she convinced him to put down his weapon. She then embraced the student and held him in a “hug hold” until police and other staff arrived.”
The Good News Network featured the creation of the awards and the call for nominees from every state last November.