'Subway Superman' in His Own Words

Jan. 4, 2006 — -- Today, Wesley Autrey stands in the spot where, on Tuesday morning, he made a split-second decision that saved one life, and nearly took his.

"This is the train," Autrey said, as he described the harrowing scene on the platform for the No. 1 subway train at 137th Street in Harlem. "And it came in fast, whizzing by."

This modest construction worker, 50, was catching the subway with his two little girls, when he saw a man have a seizure and fall onto the tracks.

"He was trying to lean up against the pillar," Autrey said. "But he rubbed up against it and leaned like this. And he fell in backwards, right into the gutter. His arm and legs were still shaking."

Autrey looked down the track and saw a train coming. He looked back at his little girls, and said he knew he had to jump onto the tracks to save the man.

"I pulled him up," Autrey said. "He falls back. The train is getting closer. I tried again."

"The driver was honking the horn, for us to get out of the way, but it was coming so fast."

Autrey's only option was to pull the man's shaking limbs inside the tracks, and squeeze both of them into the trough or gutter in the middle, which is only a foot wide and a half-foot deep.

"I wrapped myself around him so I can get his hands from out of harm's way, plus his feet," said the Vietnam War veteran. "As we were going down. … The train grazed my blue hat."

The train conductor hit the brakes, and the train came to a screeching halt. Everyone on the platform was screaming, Autrey said.

'Got to Be Humble'

When the train finally stopped, two cars had passed over the men.

Then the people on the platform heard a shout from beneath the train. It was Autrey.

"I'm their father. Let them know their father's OK, and let everyone know that man is OK," he said. Before he jumped on the tracks, he had been standing with his two young daughters.

Autrey has since visited the hospital where the young man he saved, film student Cameron Hollopeter, is now recovering.

"All we can say on behalf of the entire family is thank you so much," said Jeff Friedman, Hollopeter's grandfather.

Now the man dubbed the "Subway Superman" is the talk of the town, but would others have done the same thing?

"I think that's in the gut," said Jane Felber, a New York commuter. "You have to decide in that split second."

"I don't know if I have it in me to do it," said another commuter. "That is one heroic act."

Autrey's split-second decision saved a life, but he shrugs off talk of his heroism.

"I've got to be humble. I don't want people to blow this out of proportion," Autrey said.