New podcast tells hero stories to wider audience

A year in the making, season one of “Fear on Hold,” a new podcast by the Carnegie Hero Fund, has recently launched.

Each short episode features a Carnegie hero who shares what was going on in their mind before and during their rescue, as well as additional commentary from victims, Hero Fund investigators, eyewitnesses, and others.

Season one includes individual episodes on Carnegie heroes Peter C. Di Pinto, Sr., who saved a woman from being struck by a train after an accident in Brookhaven, New York; Hiedi Johnston, who entered the 51-degree Humboldt Bay in Eureka, California, to save a 78-year-old man who remained in the driver’s seat of his pickup after it entered the bay; Jenna Fanelli, who saved a 5-year-old boy from drowning at a community barbeque in Yonkers, New Jersey; Clerc Higgins Cooper, who, at the age of 14, saved two men from drowning in Lake Pontchartrain off of New Orleans; and Donald E. Thompson, who pulled a man from a burning vehicle on a Los Angeles freeway on Christmas Day 2013.

Recorded interviews, original music by Big Science Music in Pittsburgh, and sound effects combine to bring listeners into these riveting rescue acts.

In Di Pinto’s account, “Rescue on the Rails,” listeners experience a heart stopping moment when Di Pinto first sees a train headed toward them.

“We’re gonna get her out, or we’re gonna die together,” he said on the episode. “Because there was no way I was leaving her.”

Hero Fund Communications Director Jewels Phraner, who managed the project, said she thought that the podcast was a great idea.

“Every rescue for which we award the Carnegie Medal is life-or-death. They are truly heart-wrenching stories of bravery. Who wouldn’t want to listen to those stories unfold on a podcast?” she said.

Staff at the Fund didn’t have experience producing a podcast, so, it assembled a team that included production company Big Science Pods in Pittsburgh and writer/consultant Bill Garrison.

Each episode involved dozens of phone calls to those involved in the rescues — some dating back to more than a decade ago – conducting interviews, writing and rewriting scripts, and sound mixing to create a stellar product that is now available to the public.

“Part of our purpose, set by founder Andrew Carnegie in 1904, was to spread the news about the Hero Fund and those it recognizes,” said Eric Zahren, president of the Hero Fund.

In fact, in the Hero Fund’s Deed of Trust, penned by Carnegie, he stated that an annual report containing a detailed statement of the Carnegie Medal recipients awarded each year should be published in the newspaper.

“While we still remain robust in distributing press releases to national and local media regarding each of the heroes, times have changed, and our outreach efforts need to reflect that in order to reach new audiences,” Zahren said. “Thus, ’Fear on Hold.’”

Fear on Hold is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform. Listeners can all access it at