Hazelwood, MO (PAI) — For Letter Carrier Michael Murphy, it all started three days before Halloween in 2014 with a young girl screaming “Somebody help my mommy!”
For the 18-year veteran carrier, a Navy reservist and retired Marine, it culminated on Sept. 21 with an award from his union for heroism – an award he modestly accepted.
“I’m grateful and overwhelmed to be here with those I call ‘The exceptional eight,’” Murphy said of his fellow award winners.
Murphy, a Troy, IL, resident and member of NALC Branch 5847 in Hazelwood, was honored as 2016 Central Region Hero of the Year for his actions preventing the 2014 crime.
As he left a bakery after delivering its mail, Murphy noticed a man acting strangely, mumbling, trying car doors – and then the man attacked the sports utility vehicle with the women inside. His big target: The little girl’s mother’s purse.
After failing at entering the SUV, the man left and then came back – wielding a brick or cinderblock. He tried to smash its windows, as at least one woman escaped out the other door. The suspect attacked the driver with the cinderblock, felling her, and Murphy stepped in.
Calling on his military training, “I grabbed him by the arm and picked him up by his legs and slammed him to the ground,” Murphy later said, according to the judges’ citation. After Murphy wrestled the suspect into a face-down position, Murphy and a passerby “secured him and held him down until the police came.”
Murphy said that his military training and ethos – he served 27 years in the marines and still is a Naval reservist – had kicked in. “We run towards the fight, not away from it. I was just doing what I was trained to do,” he added. Arresting police later told Murphy that the suspect was “a repeat violent offender.” The suspect’s name was unavailable.
“Nobody does something, until somebody does,” he explained. “That’s not to say everybody can, or everybody should, but if you have the wherewithal and the courage” to act in a situation like he faced, “then do it.”
“I was able to prevent these ladies, on their way home to Cincinnati from a visit to St. Louis, from being harmed or being killed.”
Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando praised Murphy and the other letter carriers honored as 2016 Heroes of the Year. They included letter carriers who rescued residents from burning homes, saved a young boy who had darted onto a busy highway, brightened the lives of children with disabilities, rescued a girl from a vicious dog attack and provided help to families struggling with substance abuse.
“It’s not in their job description, but it’s part of who they are – part of the community,” the union leader explained. They “reflect something larger” than the individual awards. “They reflect how letter carriers view their relationships” with their customers “and their communities. They do it because they know their communities, their families and they’ve watched the children grow. And they do it because being a letter carrier isn’t merely a job. It’s a public service.”