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Brave Teen Chases Down Burning SUV To Save Life of Mother and Her Three Children Inside

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On Sept. 9, 18-year-old Justin Gavin was walking to a Walgreens in Waterbury, Connecticut. As he walked along, something terrifying happened.

A small SUV on fire drove by as other drivers honked at it. Gavin joined in, yelling at the car to stop.

“I’m yelling, ‘Stop the car! Your car is on fire! Your car is on fire!'” he recalled to CNN.

The car didn’t stop immediately, but Gavin chased after it and when it finally did stop, he was there to help.

Once he pulled the female driver out, he also rescued her three children aged 1, 4 and 9. The youngest was still in a car seat, but he managed.

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Later on, he said he’d been scared and wondered if the car was going to explode, but that didn’t stop him from jumping into action.

“It kind of got scary because I didn’t know whether I was going to be able to get everyone out in time,” he said. “And luckily, I did.”

Shortly after he rescued the family, the car was completely on fire. Firefighters arrived to put it out, but the wreckage was a haunting reminder of mortality.

“It made me realize life is short,” the hero said.

Gavin said he did what he hoped someone would do for him, if the need arose.

“I just felt like if I was in that situation, I would want somebody to help me out. I guess my instincts took over.”

The Waterbury Police Department recognized his heroic acts with a challenge coin, which they gave to him during a small ceremony that they shared on Facebook on Wednesday.

“September 9th 2020 – Chief Fernando Spagnolo thanks Justin Gavin (age 18) for helping to save a mother and her three children from a burning car,” the video caption reads. “Great job Justin!”

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“I hope that when you have that coin it just reminds you of this day and you can reflect back on all the good that came out of this for you and for that family that you saved,” Police Chief Fernando Spagnolo said in the clip.

The video has been reacted to over 31,000 times and racked up over 1,300 comments — many of them commending the young man’s actions and expressing pride and gratitude.

In a time of division and selfishness, Gavin is a shining example of how we should behave: Loving our neighbors as ourselves.

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking