Now that Charles Ramsey, the hero of the Cleveland missing women case, has become a viral sensation, PIX11 was interested in seeing what happens to people in the Tri State Area who become overnight sensations for their heroism, but whose fame has now faded.
It was the artist Andy Warhol who said that everybody would one day be famous for fifteen minutes. That statement applies strongly to many everyday New Yorkers who ended up becoming heroes.
Take, for instance, Wesley Autrey. The construction worker from Harlem is the sort of person who, to just about anyone who might encounter him on the street, a friendly but unassuming guy. The fact is, though, he ended up meeting with the president and being a guest of honor at the Super Bowl, among many other acknowledgements, after he saved a man’s life in an unexpectedly prominent way.
“If someone is in trouble, I’m going to help them,” Autrey said to PIX11 News in early 2007, after the so-called Subway Superman pulled an unconscious man who’d fallen onto the 1 train tracks a 137 Street under the approaching train and out of harm’s way.
A visit to his home by PIX11 News on Wednesday turned up empty. Autrey has apparently gone back to his construction job, and there’s no indication that he even has a cellphone.
Similarly, the trail to reach another New York everyman hero fell cold. Felix Vazquez not only caught a one-month-old baby who’d been flung from a third floor window by the child’s mother after a fire broke out in her apartment, Vazquez also performed CPR on the infant until medics arrived.
After serving for 20 years as the super of the public housing building at which he’d carried out his December 2005 heroics, Vazquez was not to be found.
“Not everyone wants to be in the limelight,” Dr. Lawrence Balter, a psychologist and PIX11 News contributor, said regarding the everyday heroes’ low profiles. Whether they’re avoiding attention, or just not reachable at the time of PIX11’s inquiries was not clear. However, another person in their ranks said that letting the fame fade over time is a welcome course of action.
“I actually preferred going back to being a normal person,” said Steve St. Bernard, who caught a 50-pound, seven year-old girl who fell three stories out of a window last July. “Everybody had wanted to hug me before.”
Still, people from his neighborhood who do not know him told PIX11 News that they still have not forgotten his brave action that’s left him with muscular problems to this day. St. Bernard, a city bus driver, only went back to work three weeks ago.
He called himself “just a regular guy,” but as neighbors like Shelly Smalls told PIX11 News, “He’s still a hero to us.”