There’s no way to prepare for the tests life throws at you. Even if you could, it’s impossible to know how you’d actually respond when faced with a life-or-death situation. 18-Year-old Justin Gavin never expected to become a hero on his seemingly normal walk to a local Walgreens, but when he noticed a family in danger, he jumped into action.
On an otherwise calm September day, Gavin noticed something terrifying as he walked through his town. Driving by was a small SUV with a little girl clearly visible through the car window. The car, however, was on fire.
Realistically, many of us would have frozen completely when faced with such a startling reality. Perhaps we would’ve had our wits about us just enough to dial 9-1-1. But as cars drove by honking frantically and others jumped from their vehicles to get the driver’s attention, Gavin quickly realized how dire the situation truly was.
With barely enough time to process what was happening, Gavin ran after the burning car. The driver, it seemed, was unable to stop at first. And as a result, neither was Gavin. The teen continued to run after the car, screaming to get the driver’s attention. Finally, the car skidded to a stop, and Gavin began his heroic rescue.
“I just felt like if I was in that situation, I would want somebody to help me out,” Gavin told CNN. “I guess my instincts took over.”
Upon reaching the car, Gavin pulled the front door open and helped the shaken mother to safety. As the flames grew, Gavin noticed three young kids in the back seat. One by one, Gavin pulled a 4-year-old and a 9-year-old from the car. With incredible speed and focus, the teen unstrapped a 1-year-old from their car seat – at last, the family was out of harm’s way.
“It kind of got scary because I didn’t know whether I was going to be able to get everyone out in time. And luckily, I did,” Gavin said.
The 18-year-old hero is being honored as such. Local police chief Fernando Spagnolo presented the courageous teen with a “challenge coin,” a token of his bravery. The mother who nearly lost everything expressed gratitude towards Gavin as well, acknowledging that he saved her life as well as the lives of her children.
In a moment of terrifying uncertainty, Justin Gavin chose to act. His bravery is an empowering reminder that every single one of us has the ability to make a difference.