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.
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!”
“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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