Harrisburg, PA, Keystone Station Letter Carrier Tim Foote was named the 2009 National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Hero of the Year for saving his neighbor’s life during a fire. Foote and five other carriers were honored at a reception held recently in Washington, DC.
Every day, letter carriers are in every neighborhood of every city in every state. Often they are first to arrive on the scene of an accident, disaster or crime — and the first to offer assistance.
In Foote’s case, he was home watching Monday Night Football on TV when his 17-year old daughter told him the neighbor’s house was on fire. "When I looked out the front door, I could see smoke rolling down the street," he said.
Barefoot, wearing only gym shorts and a sweat shirt, he rushed two doors down and tried to enter the home through the front door but was unsuccessful because it was locked. "I didn’t even realize I didn’t have any shoes on until I got there. A neighbor threw me a pair of shoes."
He went to the back of the house and was able to get in through the garage. "There was smoke in the kitchen and living room," he said. "The ceiling was about to collapse."
Foote didn’t know if his neighbor, 78-year old David Jauss was home because he used taxis and didn’t have a car parked out front. "I saw a light in the living room, so I figured he was in there," Foote said.
Getting to him was a challenge because furniture was in the way. "I found a snow shovel in the garage and used it to move the furniture," he said. "It’s not easy to move furniture when you’re crawling," he said.
Foote saw Jauss’ arm and was able to pull him out through the garage. Once there, with the help of a few neighbors, he was able to get him out of the home safely.
Jauss recovered and is doing well, although he no longer lives in the home.
A former firefighter, Foote says he understood how dangerous these situations can be, especially if alone.
The national hero program
Standing, from left, NALC President Fredric Rolando; award judge Shelby Hallmark; Matthew Merritts representing James Patrick; Emmanuel Anim-Sackey; Matthew Polnow; award judge Jordan Biscardo; and Postmaster General Jack Potter.
Seated, from left, NALC National Hero of the Year Timothy Foote, Western Region Hero Victoria Wells and Special Carrier Alert honoree James Brown, Jr.
This type of recognition began 35 years ago when the NALC established the Heroes of the Year Awards in 1974.
In 1978, a second category — Humanitarian of the Year — was initiated to honor letter carriers for significant, sustained personal contributions to a worthy cause. This year’s honoree is Emmanuel Anim-Sackey of West Orange, NJ, who collected clothes, shoes and school supplies for his home village in The Republic of Ghana,West Africa.
A Special Carrier Alert award was later created to honor letter carriers who don’t risk their own lives, but due to their alert observations of conditions and people on their routes, save customers’ lives. James Brown Jr. of Virginia Beach, VA, received this award for rescuing an elderly resident who was stricken in his home.
James Patrick, Johnstown, PA, received the Eastern Region Hero of the Year for rescuing a Roman Catholic pastor and his secretary from a burning building. Matthew Polnow, Rockford, IL, was awarded Central Region Hero of the Year for saving the life of a wheelchair-bound woman trapped in a burning van. Victoria Wells, Seattle, WA, was honored as the Western Region Hero of the Year for helping evacuate 10 children from a burning home serving as a day-care facility.
NALC President Fredric Rolando and Postmaster General Jack Potter presented the awards.