COLUMBIA - Joyce Andrews was riding her bike along Business Loop 70 on July 17, 2006, on her way to the soup kitchen, when she noticed a car stalled at a stop light. The driver made no move to get out, even though the car was quickly filling with black smoke. “There were a bunch of people around telling him to get out of the car,” said Andrews, who was pregnant and homeless at the time. “He was in his 60s or 70s, sitting there all confused.”
Surprised that he wasn’t getting out, Andrews said she joined the group of onlookers who were urging him to move. That’s when she noticed the flames.
For what she did next, Andrews was awarded the Citizen Heroism Award at Monday night’s City Council meeting.
“He was just sitting there in a daze,” Andrews said. “The guy thought it was just smoking, but he didn’t see the fire under the car. So I grabbed his arm and pulled him out.”
Moments later, the rest of the car caught fire and the man, who wasn’t present at the council meeting, asked if he could call his daughter.
Initially, Andrews only told her father, but eventually she recounted her story to her friend Roger Gadbois, who wrote the letter of recommendation to the Fire Department.
The department then investigated the claim to determine whether it was a bona fide act of valor.
“She thought of someone other than herself and we appreciate that,” Mayor Darwin Hindman said at the City Council meeting. “So because of that we rewarded her the Citizen Heroism Award that’s given for a conspicuous act of valor and heroism by a citizen under a hazardous condition in which they placed themselves in a life-threatening position.”
This is the first time the Heroism Award has been given out in almost two years, according to Battalion Chief Steven Sapp, public information officer for the Columbia Fire Department.
To this day, Andrews says she keeps her eye out for situations where she could be of help. She doesn’t remember thinking about grabbing the man out of the car, but looking back on it she said she was glad to have done it.
“If my car were on fire, I would hope someone would save me, too,” Andrews said.