The two very modest men are almost embarrassed by the attention and gratitude they are receiving since they risked their lives last Tuesday to save the lives of two others involved in a fiery car crash.
However, Monday night, once again the spotlight was set on Manchester Police Officer Gerad Gonzalez, who lives in , and Des Peres resident Joe Caruso. With their wives, children and parents by their sides, both men were honored by the City of Manchester.
As previously reported by Patch, Gonzalez and Caruso risked their lives to pull an unconscious man from a burning car right before it exploded. It all happened after a fiery crash at Dougherty Ferry and Carman roads. (The rescue, crash scene and events that unfolded afterward were all caught on the police dash cam video in this article.)
Monday, Gonzalez, a 16-year veteran of law enforcement, was honored for heroism, while Caruso, whose 15-year-old daughter was with him at the time of the crash, received an honor for citizen bravery.
Both men tell Patch they do not consider themselves the "heroes" that many residents have called them since that night.
"Training took over and that's why I did what I did," Gonzalez tells Patch. He said he did not expect a proclamation of heroism for his efforts. "I was overwhelmed. As long as Caruso was awarded, that's all I care about."
Caruso, a CBC graduate, also tells Patch he never expected such attention for his actions.
"Very strange when I saw my picture on the news," Caruso said. "I obviously don't think of myself like that. I'm just a normal dad, a normal husband. I'm fortunate that everything worked out all right."
A sentiment that is shared by their family's, especially both wives, that say they are so proud of their husbands, but think about that night and how it could have ended differently.
"I didn't know what emotion I was feeling. I was scared, I was sad. The next day I was mad," Gonzalez's wife Tammy explained.
"My initial reaction was my heart just sank," Bridget Caruso said when she learned of the incident. "Our whole family was kind of in shock that night. It was very surreal. And every day it sank in, and sank in, how our lives could have changed that night."
In fact, Caruso and his daughter were at the scene when the crash happened and narrowly missed being struck by the Chevrolet Tahoe that had already caught fire. His daughter tells Patch she told her dad not to go to the burning vehicles. However, with no one else there yet, Caruso went to the cars, first helping the female driver who was trapped inside a Chevrolet Blazer engulfed in flames, then helping Gonzalez save the Tahoe driver.
"Very proud. Just the bravery," Bridget Caruso tells Patch of her husband's actions.
Gonzalez's wife Tammy said the same. Although such a situation is unsettling, she's nothing but proud of her husband.
"So honored to be his wife," she tells Patch.