When shuttle operator Melvin Washington, Jr. left his vehicle on that early January morning to tend to an unconscious man lying on the Peabody Terrace sidewalk, he never expected to be recognized as a hero.
With the help of the sole passenger on the shuttle at the time, Washington carried the unconscious individual into the warmth of the vehicle and promptly called the paramedics.
Last Monday, a month after the incident, Harvard University Police Department invited Washington to a special ceremony to recognize his heroic gestures of kindness. Washington was informed that the man he had rescued—a graduate student at the University—was alive.
To commemorate Washington’s “lifesaving efforts and other valuable contributions to HUPD,” Chief of Police Francis D. Riley awarded him a certificate of appreciation.
Washington also received the Mallinckrodt Medal for “significant contributions” to the department of chemistry and chemical biology, the academic affiliation of the graduate student.
The celebratory event was attended by many “important people,” but Washington said that the most memorable part of the incident’s aftermath has been his bosses’ reactions to the story.
“I really enjoy and care about my bosses, and they care about me,” Washington said, reflecting on the support he received following the incident. “They were so understanding. They made me feel better about myself.”
The Peabody incident does not mark Washington’s first “heroic” act as a Harvard shuttle operator. In the spring of last year, Washington called the police to Winthrop St., where he had stopped an argument before it erupted into physical violence.
Washington said his bosses sometimes jokingly ask him where he hides his cape. When he answers, Washington simply states that ensuring the safety of Harvard students is a part of his job.
“I feel like a bus driver, kind of like a dad, [and even] a counselor,” Washington said with a chuckle.
HUPD spokesman Steven G. Catalano said that he could not comment on the status of the case because the incident was a medical call.
—Staff writer Xi Yu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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