City's own all-stars share stories of helping New Yorkers
Millions of fans around the world will watch Major League Baseball's best at Citi Field tonight, but the Big Apple is home to another lineup of all-stars.
Every day, there are scores of New Yorkers who go above and beyond to help others and improve life in the city. From firefighters and cops to teachers and subway workers, there are tons of stories of waiting to be told. These are some of the notable New Yorkers who should get everyone's vote for the city's unofficial "all-star team."
KIEVON HARPER, FDNY
When the fire department assigned the six-year veteran to marine detail during Superstorm Sandy, the Staten Island native didn't hesitate to get his feet wet.
Working in the Coast Guard reserve trained him to handleany emergency in the ocean, so when parts of the Rockaways flooded he was ready.
“It definitely was intense, but the training prepares you for the unforeseen things. There were poles down there were wires in the water,” he recalled.
While sailing near Beach 44th Street on the night of the storm, Harper, 31, saw two houses with their lights on and immediately swam out.
When he and his partners got to the homes they found an elderly couple and their daughter.
“They weren't going to make it. Water was going up their neck, so we put them in life jackets,” he said.
The family needed some help getting to the FDNY boat, so a quick-thinking Harper created a makeshift raft out of a nearby fence and brought them to safety.
He and his partner returned to the second house and rescued the nine people, including one pregnant woman and several children, who were trapped there.
Harper, who earned the FDNY's Vincent J. Kane medal last month for his heroism, said moments like that are what made him join New York's Bravest.
“You hear thank you etc., but ultimately it's just another day at work,” he said.
FRANK D’ERASMO, MTA Signal Maintainer
As a snowstorm hitthe city on Feb. 15, New Yorkers settled in early making the streets and subway stations were atypically quiet that Friday night, but lucky for one straphanger, Frank D'Erasmo and a crew of MTA signal maintainers hwere still on the job.
Like dozens of other transit workers, D'Erasmo and his co-workers were working overtime due to the weather and the crew just happened to be responding to signal trouble in the 65th Street station in Long Island City when one intoxicated man fell ontothe tracks.
“I didn't even hesitate or think. I just jumped down onto the tracks,” said D'Erasmo, “He was someone's son, someone's husband or brother and I'd want someone to do the same for me.”
While D'Erasmo and his co-worker Roger Reid lifted theunconscious man back onto the platform, Pradeep Trehan, a signalman, radioed the control center and co-workers Isidro Torres and Theodore Filter waved their bright “flagging” lanterns to slowdown the oncoming E train. Their teamwork and quick thinking saved the man's life.
But D'Erasmo, the 40-year-old MTA veteran, is humble and quick to pass the recognition to his colleagues. He explains the incident is an “ordinary” occurrence in his rather dangerous line of work.
“MTA workers do this all the time, jump on the tracks to save someone, risk their lives to help others” D’Erasmo said.
BEN BROWN, NYU Graduate Student
“Want to save someone’s life tonight?” That’s the question that roused 24-year-old NYU grad student Ben Brown from his sleeping bag, where he’d just settled in to wait out Superstorm Sandy as it raged outside his Staten Island apartment.
His friend, Adam, frantically led Brown, a former lifeguard, into the flooded streets. By night’s end, Brown and his new, temporary housemates saved not one life but five, plus two kittens. Brown and Dominick, another roommate, leaped over fallen trees, crawled over car hoods and torn fences and swam blocks of dark floodwaters to rescue the Galati family, who were trapped in their home downhill, across from a lagoon. One by one, the family and the kitties latched on as Brown and Dominick swam them to higher ground. Toniann, the mother, thanked him by kissing his forehead.
“I’m a firm believer in fate, that everything happens for a reason,” says Brown, who had only just moved to Sandy Beach after being displaced from his Manhattan condo.
MEGHAN LEWIS, Spanish teacher, IS 131, the Bronx
Over the last few years, school bullying has become a more serious issue with stories of youngsters suffering depression, anxiety and in some cases committing suicide.
Lewis, who has been teaching at IS 131 for three years, took a stand against bullying to improve her students’ social and academic lives.
“My students can’t learn if they're not comfortable. The bullying, the teasing the putting someone down interferes with that,” Lewis said.
Lewis, 29, attended some workshops at Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility and created an anti-bullying afterschool program.
“Not a lot of kids between 11 and 13 want to talk about it but it needs to be done,” she said.
The kids also do community service as a way of teaching about working with people outside their circles. During the school year, her students volunteered in Staten Island neighborhoodshit hard by Sandy.
“It gives them perspective. It gives them a chance to interact with people who are different from them,” she said.
JESSE JAMES TURANO, Port Authority Officer
Officer Turano, who lives in New Jersey, was on his way home from his job monitoring cars at the George Washington Bridge on April 30 when he got a call about a man who was on the bridge’s walkway illegally.
The former Marine pulled up to the man and asked him to leave the walkway but he wouldn't listen.
“Right there and then I could tell he was not going to stop walking,” Turano said.
The man made it to edge of the bridge and tried to get over the railing.
Fortunately the officer double timed and ran up to the man before he could fully get to the other side of the railing. Turano grabbed his waist and brought him back to the side of the bridge and subdued him.
Turano said the man initially said he wanted to kill himself while he was being handcuffed but after an ambulance showed up, he thanked him for saving his life.
“I'm happy he didn't jump and he's getting help,” the officer said.
SGT. KEVIN BRENNAN, NYPD
Lightning striking in the same place twice is one thing, but a heroic cop taking down suspects in the same place twice is another.
Sgt. Kevin Brennan, 29, survived a shot in the head last year while chasing a gang member near Bushwick Houses in January 2012. The officer, who lives in Long Island, and his former partner, Michael Burbridge, returned to the scene on May 28 with prosecutors on the case when something caught their eye.
Burbridge noticed two suspects wanted in an armed push-in robbery as the group drove away from the scene and the two officers sprung into action. Brennan, who now works in the NYPD’s intelligence division, confronted one of the suspects when hid something suspicious in his waisteband. Brennan grabbed the suspect and found a loaded .9 mm pistol, much to the amazement of the prosecutors.
Despite going two for two in the neighborhood, Brennan said he doesn’t see himself as a hero.
“Nah I'm just doing my job. I'm having fun,” he said.
BRENDON HERNANDEZ, EMT
This 25-year-old “all-star” said he's not a huge baseball fan but has a passion for action movies. His inner John McClane came out on June 10 when he disarmed an alleged emotionally disturbed man who shot an officer in the foot at Harlem Hospital.
Although he was handcuffed, Guiteau Idore managed to grab the gun of one of the officers arresting him and managed to take a shot on Officer Fausto Gomez, police said.
“I heard the shots, ran, jumped back didn't know what to do but jumped back grabbed the gun, removed the magazine and disarmed it,” said Hernandez, who used to be a volunteer firefighter upstate.
Gomez is expected to make a full recovery and Idore was charged with attempted murder.
Hernandez said he hopes to join the NYPD full-time, but in the meantime will continue to help New Yorkers as an EMT.
“New York City is the largest city in the world and NYPD is the largest police force in the world,” he said. “You can't ask for anything more.”
ELSA ALVARADO, Student
Elsa Alvarado said her passion for politics stemmed from her father watching the news all the time in their Glendale home.
When the Benjamin Cardozo High School junior began her attended the Bayside institution she wanted to work on a way to hone her political interest and created the Future Educators of New York Club.
Alvarado said the club took off and attracted other interested students.
“I think getting that feeling with helping kids in math really got me,” she said.
Her hard work helped her to get a summer internship through the Bank of America Student Leader program at Neighborhood Housing Services, a nonprofit that helps people with housing information and help.
“I feel in love with the program because it deals with politics,” she said of the internship.