An Oklahoma letter carrier was recognized for his bravery in saving an 11-year-old girl from a burning house with a National Association of Letter Carriers’ (NALC) award on Oct. 8.
Steve Shipman, 55, freed the girl during his regular mail round in February, Tulsa World reported.
He secured the Western Region Hero Award at the NALC’s Heroes of the Year event held in Washington, D.C.
The 25-year veteran explained how he was on his usual route when he saw a home on fire. The front of the house was engulfed in flames, and the windows began bursting with the heat.
“I didn’t know a structure could burn like that,” Shipman told Tulsa World.
He called 911 and started pounding on the house's door.
After a neighbor, Sherman Alberty, pulled into the driveway, the two men heard screaming and went around to the back of the house.
Shipman located a piece of wood and Alberty used it to smash the window.
Inside, they discovered the 11-year-old girl and pulled her out.
“When it comes to something like this, I don’t know how to accept it very well,” Shipman said of the award.
Shipman noted that he had simply done what anyone would have in that situation, and he added that Alberty deserved some of the credit.
“I needed [Alberty’s] help, and he needed my help. And it worked out,” he said.
Shipman returned to his regular mail round after the incident, and he didn’t mention it to anyone. But by the next day, the story was on the front page of the local newspaper, the Vinita Daily Journal.
Pam Donato, Community Services Coordinator with the NALC, said that Shipman had demonstrated how human beings are capable of acts of bravery they could never imagine.
“I firmly believe it’s one of the best-kept secrets about humanity,” Donato added.
Shipman was joined at the ceremony by Scott Gallegos, a California letter carrier declared National Hero of the Year for saving a woman who had been shot by a man, PR Newswire reported.
Other winners included a Florida letter carrier named Eastern Region Hero for pulling an unconscious driver from a car filling up with water, and an Ohio carrier who received the Central Region award for helping a woman escape a burning home.
“Each incident required a level of courage, compassion, creative thought and action,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Each individual rose to the occasion.”