Everyday people earn mayor's praise by doing heroic deeds

January 03, 1994|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,Staff Writer

It's not part of his job description as a parking agent to tackle purse snatchers and wrestle them to the ground, but Howard E. Nelson does just that.

Thomas Finnerty is usually supervising workers for the marine operations unit of the Bureau of Water and Wastewater. But that didn't stop him from rescuing three people from a sinking boat.

And Kim A. Dimick, who is usually busy keeping the Inner Harbor's waters clean, helped two co-workers rescue a man from the water.

They're everyday people with everyday jobs, who dared to thwart crimes or to help others in life-threatening situations.

That's why Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke will present Citizen Citations today to these three people and five other Department of Public Works employees for "heroic deeds," according to a department spokesman.

"When people see us [parking agents], it's automatic frowns," said Mr. Nelson, 32, who has been with the Department of Transportation's parking control for more than a year. "They're usually unhappy because they think all we do is give out tickets."

While writing a parking citation last summer, he helped a University of Maryland Hospital officer catch a purse snatcher by tackling the suspect to the ground and wrestling with him until the officer arrived.

There's also the time Mr. Nelson saw a bank robbery suspect and helped officers track him down.

"The public doesn't know that we're out there helping people in distress," he said. "I think it's pretty good to be recognized when you're doing more out there than just your job. It makes me feel kind of good."

Eddie Walker, a parking agent who is being honored for helping officers capture a robbery suspect in October, agreed.

"I think it's great we're being recognized," said Mr. Walker, 29, who has been with the parking control unit for 3 1/2 years. "It relieves the myth of the parking control agent who is out there just to write parking tickets and make people miserable.

"That's just not true, we're out there helping people, too. I make it a habit of helping people. Whatever I see that needs to be done, I'll do it," he said.

Not only are the award winners heroic, they're modest too.

Mr. Finnerty was doing the usual day's paperwork when he happened to look up and see three people desperately trying to bail water out of their sinking boat. He dropped everything, called marine police, and helped them rescue all three boaters and drag the sinking boat back to shore.

"It's all in a day's work," said Mr. Finnerty, 39, who's been working for the city for 20 years. "I don't want to take all the credit.

"Nobody around here has ever really been honored for anything, but we're out here doing our job daily," he said. "Whether we get recognition or not, when something happens, we get involved."

James J. Tirabassi thinks the same way. He was one of two Bureau of General Services mechanics who helped Ms. Dimick rescue a man near the Korean War Memorial. The man had jumped into the water to rescue his granddaughter's dog but couldn't pull himself out of the water.

"It wasn't much to it," said Mr. Tirabassi, 39, a mechanic with the bureau for 21 years. "Kim heard the scream and saw the dog go in the water, then the man went in the water and when he couldn't get himself up, we went to help.

"I didn't feel that it was anything really heroic," he said. "We weren't really in danger, and I would have done it for anybody who needed help."

Maybe that's not heroic to him, but in the eyes of the city, his actions were heroic enough to be awarded a Citizen's Citation.

"It's something I'll always be proud of, that's for sure," said Ms. Dimick, 35. "Saving someone's life. If it happens again, I'd do it again, over and over."

The other honorees are:

* Ben Murphy, the other mechanic from the Bureau of Water and Wastewater who helped Mr. Tirabassi and Ms. Dimick rescue the man from the water;

* Jemes H. Scott, a survey technician for the Bureau of Transportation who retrieved a stolen bike by capturing two of three suspects, one of whom was carrying a pellet gun;

* Jerry Spears, who works for the Bureau of Solid Waste who BTC helped save the life of a co-worker who collapsed from a stroke by quickly calling for medical assistance.

Public Works Director George G. Balog and officials from the Baltimore City Police will join the mayor in commending the employees. The ceremony is at 9:30 a.m. in the Ceremonial Room at City Hall.

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