Red Cross honors ‘real heroes’

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LEWISTON — Rachel Edson remembers snow tubing on Jan. 2 in Oxford with friends. She remembers traveling in a van on Route 26 back toward home in Gray, the roads slick with snow.

The 17-year-old doesn’t remember the van hitting a truck, striking her head or getting trapped between seats.

She doesn’t remember that of all the strangers to pass by after the crash, only Glenn Peterson stopped. He helped free her from the wreck and worked to stop the bleeding.

Edson met Peterson for the first time Tuesday, during an event honoring him as her hero.

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“I think it’s amazing that he stopped and didn’t just drive by like everyone else,” Edson said. “I am very grateful God knew that I needed him.”

The annual American Red Cross Real Heroes breakfast at the Ramada Inn was long on drama — rescues from trucks that were sinking or about to explode, saving a choking 4-year-old — and long on thanks.

Peterson of Poland, in accepting his Good Samaritan award, thanked his mother and his wife, his old Scout master and the Poland Fire Department.

“If you’re not trained in First Aid, please take advantage of (the Red Cross’) offerings,” he said. “You may be able to save a friend or a family member or a stranger like I was able to do.”

Mayor Larry Gilbert introduced the morning’s honorees as “people who put service above self.”

“This year more than most, they didn’t want to be recognized at all; they simply saw something needed to be done and did it,” said Laurie Levine, director of the United Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Pauline Bonney of Auburn was recognized for almost three decades of Red Cross volunteer work with its Blood Services award. Since 1994, she has helped coordinate blood drives around Lewiston-Auburn.

Lewiston Fire Chief Paul Leclair said he was proud to know 13-year-old Derek Vintinner of Randolph, an honorary member of his department. Vintinner, given the Outstanding Youth award, has helped raise thousands of dollars for the Muscular Dystrophy Association with the firefighters’ “Fill the Boot” campaign.

“It’s spread throughout the ranks; everybody’s involved,” Leclair said. “Derek, I want to thank you for your inspiration.”

His mother, Jerri Vintinner, said the award meant a lot to her son.

“This has nothing to do with him having muscular dystrophy,” she said. “This is because he has a big heart.”

Brian Levesque of Monmouth said he “just did what I thought I was supposed to do” when he rescued a man up to his neck in water, pinned by a guardrail inside the cab of his septic truck. The truck pitched over the side of a narrow bridge last August when it collided with another vehicle. Levesque, a Monmouth Fire Department volunteer for 15 years, received the Public Services Award.

Alex Whitehouse, who stood before the full room in his Scout uniform, thanked his mother and the leader who taught him the Heimlich maneuver. The 10-year-old from Turner was honored for Youth Life Saving for saving younger brother Drake when he stumbled and lodged a Tootsie Roll in his throat.

“He grabbed his brother, pushed his head down and hugged, exactly as he’d learned,” said event emcee, Channel 8 news anchor Shannon Moss.

Finally, Larry Jordan of Poland was honored for Adult Life Saving for yanking a man free from a smoke-filled truck that had flipped in an accident.

“Thank God he did; seconds later that truck blew up,” Moss said.

Co-workers from the local Pepsi bottling plant came out to the breakfast to cheer for him.

“I don’t really know what to say,” Jordan said. “I hope in the same situation somebody would do the same thing for me.”

Eric Lynes, disaster services director for the local chapter, presented plaques to three “community partners” — the Androscoggin Unified Emergency Management Agency, the Salvation Army and Lewiston High School — for coming together on Aug. 17 when a River Street fire displaced 70 people and killed 9-year-old Taylor McQueeney.

The Salvation Army offered snacks, rides and comfort. The emergency agency came through with a bus and help with animal control.

“We had everything from spiders to snakes to pit bulls; it looked like a zoo at the Red Cross office,” Lynes said.

The high school offered shelter, abruptly pulling painters off a job and taking down scaffolding in the school gym to free up the space, he said.

For all of the honorees, Lynes said he was reminded of a man he thanked once at the Lewiston Multi-Purpose Center for giving blood.

The man responded, “‘I simply do this because I give a damn,’” he said. “In the words of a valued blood donor, you gave a damn on that day.”

kskelton@sunjournal.com

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