The Wakefield man responsible for saving dozens of lives during a terrible fire on Chelsea Street back in April was honored at the State House last Tuesday for his heroism.
Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray presented Paul Antonino, 53, with the 11th annual Madeline Amy Sweeney Award for Civilian Bravery during a State House ceremony as part of the Patrick-Murray Administration’s annual September 11 recognition of local heroes.
On April 1, 2012 Antonino was eating lunch at one of his favorite spots in Eastie–Oliveira’s Brazilian BBQ on Chelsea Street.
“I took my daughter over there for lunch and when we came out I smelled smoke,” said the former North End resident who now lives in Wakefield and owns property in Eastie. “I saw some smoke coming from the top of the building across the street from Oliveira’s so after I got into my car I circled around the block.”
Antonino said he knew something was wrong when he pulled up in front of the building at 330 Chelsea St. and saw that the smoke had become heavier and stronger.
With no time to think of his own safety, Antonino ran into the building and began knocking on doors. When no one answered at two of the apartments Antonino kicked the doors in only to find two elderly residents unaware of the inferno that was beginning to rage above them.
Antonino yelled, “Let’s go! Let’s go! We’ve got to get out!”
No one was home on the third floor.
Several hours into the fire the inferno breached the firewall between 330 and 328 Chelsea St. and spread to the adjoining three family. The blaze caused the partial collapse of 330 Chelsea St. and gutted 328 Chelsea St.
The fire caused over $2.5 million in damage and left 30 people homeless.
But if not for Antonino, some of those residents could have been seriously injured or even killed. The Boston Fire Department said at the time they couldn’t believe everyone got out alive.
“Paul Antonino’s bravery was in every way in the spirit of those first responders eleven years ago,” said Governor Deval Patrick. “His was an act worthy of the Madeline Amy Sweeney Award.”
The Madeline Amy Sweeney Award for Civilian Bravery was created in the spirit of the heroism and bravery shown by Sweeney and other victims of September 11, 2001. The award honors individuals who demonstrate extraordinary bravery in an effort to save the life of another in danger.
Sweeney, known as Amy, was a flight attendant aboard American Airlines Flight 11, which was hijacked on the morning of September 11, and later crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Before the crash, Sweeney conveyed critical information about the plane’s hijackers to ground services. An Acton resident, Sweeney was survived by her husband and two children.
“Amy Sweeney’s quick action and bravery will never be forgotten,” said Lieutenant Governor Murray. “In the aftermath of 9/11, the country came together as one and we were reminded of how valuable it is to help others and pay it forward. As we remember Amy’s legacy, it is fitting that we as a Commonwealth recognize another extraordinary hero, Paul Antonino, who risked his life and bravely saved and protected others.”
Mayor Thomas Menino was on hand last week to honor Antonino. Menino had declared Wednesday, April 4 Paul Antonino Day back in April.
“Paul Antonino put the safety of others ahead of his own. His actions are in the spirit of Madeline Amy Sweeney’s bravery, and it is fitting that he be honored in this way,” Menino. “On this 11th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, we should be mindful of the actions of Paul Antonino and Amy Sweeney as they continue to remind us of the importance of selflessness and service to others.”