Easthampton man welcomed into pantheon of heroes for fire rescue

By EMILY THURLOW

Staff Writer

Published: 03-28-2023 4:00 PM

EASTHAMPTON — A city man is receiving national recognition for his lifesaving actions last year in rescuing his neighbor from a burning building.

The Carnegie Hero Fund announced Monday that it would be presenting 38-year-old Paul Galotti with the Carnegie Medal, the highest honor for civilian heroism in North America.

“It’s an overwhelming honor to receive this medal. I lost my dad in January and I’d love for him to be here now,” Galotti said. “He’s here in spirit. He always told me to ‘do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do,’ and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to help someone and to make my parents proud.”

The fund was founded in 1904 by Pittsburgh steelmaker Andrew Carnegie, who realized the importance of recognizing civilians who perform acts of heroism in everyday life in the U.S. and Canada.

“This recognition represents the love a person has for humanity,” said Jewels Phraner, communications director at the Carnegie Hero Fund. “In Paul’s case, he risked serious physical injury or death to rescue his neighbor.”

Easthampton Fire Chief Christopher Norris said he nominated Galotti for the Carnegie Medal for putting another person’s life before his.

“This award highlights the tremendous valiant efforts he made that day,” Norris said.

On May 15, 2022, Galotti ran over to a neighboring multifamily home at 97-99 East St. after his wife, Eliza, spotted smoke and heard “popping noises.”

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Galotti dashed out the door and across the street alerting his neighbors to the fire. At first, no one answered, but after returning a second time, Galotti heard the voice of David Martinez from the lower level of the building. Martinez, who indicated he uses a wheelchair, said the walk-out entrance in the back was blocked by flames and he was unable to get out.

Galotti made an initial attempt to go into the apartment, but was overcome with smoke and retreated outside after 45 seconds.

He looked up and down the street to see if the firefighters had arrived but saw no sign of them.

Galotti then covered his nose and mouth with the collar of his T-shirt and walked back into the smoke-filled room to search for Martinez, who was about 12 feet from the stairs.

Galotti lifted Martinez from the wheelchair, hoisted him over his shoulder and left the building.

In the days that followed, Galotti also organized a GoFundMe fundraiser for the displaced families of the East Street building, generating more than $3,000.

Since then, Norris presented Galotti with the fire chief’s citation and the Easthampton Fire Department Medal of Honor, as well as citations from the state House and Senate by state Rep. Dan Carey, D-Easthampton, and state Sen. John C. Velis, D-Westfield.

Galotti was also presented with the Madeline “Amy” Sweeney Award for Civilian Bravery. He was nominated for the award by Velis and Norris.

Recipients of this award must demonstrate “exceptional bravery” without regard for personal safety in an effort to save someone in imminent danger. The award was named after the late Amy Sweeney of Action, who worked as a flight attendant for American Airlines and died during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The flight she was on that day was the first airplane hijacked by terrorists and flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

As for the Carnegie Medal, Phraner said that the Carnegie Hero Fund undergoes an intense investigation into the act of heroism, conducting interviews with eyewitnesses and obtaining official reports from police and fire departments, and presents a final report for the fund’s 21-person board.

Galotti is one of 15 civilians being honored this year by the hero fund who risked serious injury or death to save others.

To qualify, rescuers must have no full measure of responsibility for the safety of the victim. There must be conclusive evidence to support the act’s occurrence, and the act must be called to the attention of the commission within two years.

“One important distinction of this recognition is that we evaluate each case independently. It is not a competition,” Phraner said. “Paul is the 10,350th recipient.”

Recipients have been selected from more than 100,000 nominees. About 20% of the medals are awarded posthumously.

Each of the recipients or their survivors will receive a financial grant. Throughout the 119 years since the fund was established by Carnegie, more than $44 million has been given in one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits, and continuing assistance.

Galotti will be presented with the medal at a ceremony this summer once the medal is created, Phraner said.

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.]]>