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Massachusetts man receives Award for Civilian Bravery after entering dangerous house fire to carry and save wheelchair-bound neighbor



Photo courtesy of Easthampton Fire Department during award ceremony in May

BOSTON – Today, in a ceremony commemorating the twenty-first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito presented the Madeline “Amy” Sweeney Award for Civilian Bravery to 38-year-old Paul Galotti of Easthampton, who entered a dangerous house fire and carried a wheelchair-bound neighbor to safety in May 2022. This annual award honors a civilian who demonstrates exceptional bravery, without regard for personal safety, to save the life of another in actual, imminent danger.

On May 15, 2022, Galotti was watching playoff basketball when suddenly his wife alerted him to smoke and sounds coming from a neighbor’s home. Paul acted swiftly, running to his neighbor’s home, and looking for any signs of people still inside. After hearing a voice on the lower level, he courageously and without hesitation entered the burning building despite significant personal risk, with only his t-shirt as a mask. He located a wheelchair-bound man who was trapped inside by the flames, lifted the man from his wheelchair, and carried him to safety outside. Given the severity of the situation, Easthampton fire officials determined that Galotti’s quick action saved the man’s life and prevented a tragedy.

“This important, annual event represents an opportunity each year to honor the selfless bravery of men and women in the Commonwealth who display incredible acts of heroism, with great risk to their own safety, to save the lives of their neighbors,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “As we commemorate the tragic events of September 11, 2001, we remember those that were lost, those that gave their lives to save others and the families whose lives were irrevocably changed twenty-one years ago.”

Known as “Amy,” Sweeney was an American Airlines flight attendant for 14 years. She lived in Acton, Massachusetts with her husband and their two small children. On September 11, 2001, she was killed aboard American Airlines Flight 11, the first aircraft hijacked by terrorists and flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. In the flight’s final minutes, Sweeney contacted the airline’s ground services crew to convey critical information about the hijackers and their actions on the plane that morning. It is for her heroism and all victims of September 11, 2001, that this award was created.

“Presenting the Madeline ‘Amy’ Sweeney award to a courageous resident of the Commonwealth each year has been a tremendous honor, and it is a privilege to today recognize Mr. Paul Galotti for his immeasurable heroism,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “Paul Galotti’s actions to search for and rescue his Easthampton neighbor undoubtedly saved his life, and his selfless act of bravery is the embodiment of Madeline ‘Amy’ Sweeney’s memory and all that this distinguished award represents.”

“The story of Amy Sweeney aboard Flight 11 on September 11th illustrates how thoughtful civilian action in dangerous situations can save countless lives,” Public Safety and Security Secretary Terrence Reidy said. “As Amy’s conversation with officials on the ground provided critical, real-time information about the 9/11 attacks, Paul’s swift response to locate and save a person with mobility limitations prevented a dangerous fire from turning fatal. On this 21st anniversary of 9/11, we continue fulfilling our promise to never forget by honoring the legacy of Amy Sweeney and the actions of Mr. Galotti.”

Beyond his heroism during the fire itself, Mr. Galotti recognized in the hours that followed the material needs of his neighbors who were displaced from their home. He established an online fundraising campaign to provide necessities and assistance for his neighbors.

Galotti was nominated for the award by State Senator John Velis and Easthampton Fire Chief Christopher Norris. He was selected by the Madeline Amy Sweeney Award for Civilian Bravery Selection Committee, which is chaired by Lt. Governor Polito.

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