It happened in a New York minute—a man having a seizure fell onto the city's subway tracks before an oncoming train, and another man, a complete stranger, dove to his rescue.
Wesley Autrey saved the fallen Cameron Hollopeter by pushing him into a shallow trough between the rails and lying on top of him as the train passed over. Miraculously, both men were unharmed. Autrey is nominated as Beliefnet’s Most Inspiring Person of the Year for his immediate and selfless reaction in saving the life of another.
Autrey, a 51-year-old construction worker was waiting for the train with his two small daughters, when Hollopeter, a 19-year-old college student, fell on the tracks.
"It was as if something was telling me to do what I done," Autrey told Beliefnet in an interview. "A voice out of nowhere said, 'Go and save that life, that life is a life worth saving and don’t worry about your own.' It seemed like something just lifted me up off the platform."
And while those on the platform saw only the oncoming train, Autrey—a Southern Baptist and the son of a street-corner evangelist—saw the hand of God. As the train bore down on the two men, Autrey said he felt the presence of someone else on the tracks.
"It seemed somebody else was down there and I could feel the presence of angels or of God or something," he said. "I heard my babies screaming and the ladies I left my two kids with was screaming. But I could feel the presence of somebody on top of me."
After the train passed over, there was only a small smudge on Autrey’s baseball cap. Hollopeter was taken to a hospital and later released. His father, Larry Hollopeter, told the press, "Mr. Autrey's instinctive and unselfish act saved our son's life. There are no words to properly express our gratitude and feelings for his actions...May God's blessings be with Mr. Autrey and his family."
Subsequently Autrey found himself the eye of a hurricane of publicity. In the next few weeks, people gave him gifts of money, automobiles, and scholarships for his children. He made numerous television appearances and in late January, he and his daughters were special guests at President George Bush's 2007 State of the Union Address, where he received a standing ovation.
Today, Autrey continues to work in construction and raise his two daughters. He and the Hollopeters remain in touch. He gives motivational talks to children and adults, saying there is nothing special about what he did.
"I tell them that there is a hero in all of us," he says. "I just want them to know that any New Yorker could have done what I done. The key is staying focused."
And he continues to feel the presence of God he felt on the train tracks.
"I truly believe now that he has something special for me to do," he said. "I am going to let him guide me."