NEW YORK – The construction worker who rescued a stranger from an oncoming subway train by pushing him into a gap between the rails has become a national hero.
But Wesley Autrey does not see it that way.
"I'm still saying I'm not a hero ... 'cause I believe all New Yorkers should get into that type of mode," he said on CBS' "The Early Show" Thursday. "You should do the right thing."
On an interview that aired on ABC's "Good Morning America": "I don't want people to blow this out of proportion."
Nonetheless, Autrey's phone has been ringing off the hook, including calls from complete strangers so inspired by his bravery that they offered rewards. Besides appearing on several morning television shows Thursday, Autrey was set to tape an appearance on David Letterman's CBS "Late Show" and visit City Hall to be honored by Mayor Michael Bloomberg."It's all hitting me now," Autrey said Wednesday, a day after two subway cars passed over him and the young man with just 2 inches (5 centimeters) to spare. "I'm looking, and these trains are coming in now. ... Wow, you did something pretty stupid."
But even knowing that he had a narrow escape from injury or death, the 50-year-old Manhattanite does not regret his choice.
"I did something to save someone's life," the Navy veteran said.
The father of three was lauded Wednesday for his quick thinking and even quicker reflexes. Waiting for a downtown train on Tuesday, he saw Cameron Hollopeter, a 19-year-old film student, suffering from some kind of medical problem. After stumbling down the platform, Hollopeter, of Littleton, Massachusetts, fell onto the tracks with a train on its way into the station.
Autrey, traveling with his two young daughters, knew he had to do something.
He jumped down to the tracks and rolled with the young man into the trough between the rails as a southbound No. 1 train came into the station.
The trough, which is used for drainage, is typically about 12 inches (30 centimeters) deep but can be as shallow as 8 (20 centimeters) or as deep as 24 (60 centimeters).
The train's operator saw someone on the tracks and put the emergency brakes on. Before the train came to a stop, two cars passed over the men — with about 2 inches (5 centimeters) to spare, Autrey said.
Hollopeter's stepmother, Rachel Hollopeter, said Autrey was "an angel."
"He was so heroic," she said in a telephone interview. "If he wasn't there, this would be a whole different call."
Autrey stopped by the hospital Wednesday afternoon for a visit with Hollopeter and his family. Afterward, he and Hollopeter's father addressed reporters.
"Mr. Autrey's instinctive and unselfish act saved our son's life," Larry Hollopeter said, his voice choking up. "There are no words to properly express our gratitude and feelings for his actions."
The unusual rescue brought the media horde to Autrey, who spent the day doing interviews. He planned to make the rounds of the morning television shows on Thursday, tape an appearance on David Letterman's "Late Show" and visit City Hall to be honored by the mayor.
Autrey's mother was beaming Wednesday.
"It was dangerous, what he done, but I'm proud of him that God had him in the right place at the right time so he could help somebody," Mary Autrey said. "That's our upbringing, helping people."