The four Carnegie institutions headquartered in Pittsburgh – Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Mellon University – played host to a celebration of their founder at the Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh on June 12.

“The Power of One — A Tribute to the Power of the Individual” event was the second in a year-long series to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Carnegie’s death in 1919. It included a program that not only celebrated Carnegie’s philanthropy in Pittsburgh, but also examined his focus on civilian heroes with the 1904 founding of the Carnegie Hero Fund, which presented the Carnegie Medal to its 10,000th and 10,001st heroes at the event.

Pittsburgh-born actor Michael Keaton was the keynote speaker at the event.

“I want to thank you for the honor of being here tonight,” he said. “The idea of honoring those who have been heroic at the risk of their own well-being, to me, stands out.”

He noted that the common denominator of heroism is courage. “Courage shows up all the time in this world and often without any fanfare,” he continued.

Notable author, broadcaster, and journalist Scott Simon, of NPR’s Weekend Edition, served as the event’s Master of Ceremonies.

“As someone who spends a lot of time with politicians, pundits, and celebrities, it will be refreshing and inspiring to be in the presence of true heroes,” Simon said when he agreed to participate in the program.

As representatives of the persistence, glory, friendship, and strength common to the acts of heroism performed by every Carnegie Medal awardee, Vickie Tillman, of Baton Rouge, La., and Jimmy Rhodes, of Lumberton, N.C., were named the Commission’s 10,000th and 10,001st Carnegie Heroes, respectively.

Last winter, Tillman, a 56-year-old school cafeteria clerk stopped her car after seeing a wounded police officer struggling to take a man into custody.  The 5’2” woman rushed to the men, removed the suspect’s hand from the officer’s holstered gun and held it behind his back.  As the man continued to punch the officer, Tillman impeded his attack, until other police officers arrived.  It took two other police officers to subdue the assailant and take him into custody.

Cpl. Billy Aime, the man Tillman rescued, presented the Carnegie Medal to her at the event, as Simon read the harrowing details of her act.

In July 2015, Rhodes, a 38-year-old radiographic technologist, rushed to the scene of a fiery helicopter crash with a fire extinguisher, despite flames engulfing the helicopter and spilled fuel around it. Standing at the perimeter of advancing flames, Rhodes sprayed the helicopter pilot with a fire extinguisher, and then reached for the man’s legs before blistering heat forced him back.  Suffering burns and smoke inhalation, Rhodes, once again, moved to the pilot, used the fire extinguisher to clear a space for him to grab hold of the man’s vest and pulled him from the wreckage.

Karen Mahany, widow of the helicopter pilot, Patrick Mahany, presented the Carnegie Medal to Rhodes.


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