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Rescuer cites hand of God: 'I was put there for a reason that morning'
Earl Wickline of Londonderry will receive a Union Leader Hero Award for saving an unconscious driver -- and the driver's dog -- from the man's burning vehicle on Jan. 26, 2013. (Michael Cousineau/Union Leader)
Now he believes he does.
"I was put there for a reason that morning," he said.
Shortly after 6 a.m. on Jan. 26, 2013, Wickline pulled an unconscious Robert Braley from his burning Jeep. Police said he saved the man's life - and Braley's 11-year-old dog Harry, who was riding shotgun.
But Wickline, 64, who lives in Londonderry, gives credit where he says it's due. After the rescue, he said, "I went to church, and I can't tell you how many times I thanked the Lord for putting me there."
But the real reward is the feeling that an old sorrow has been lifted from his shoulders and heart.
When he was 18, Wickline was a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Clarksburg, Mass. "When you grow up in a small town, you're a fireman whether you want to be or not," he said with a smile. "Because there aren't that many able-bodied souls, everybody goes. It's just what you do."
A woman and five of her six children perished in the fire that day.
The Wrangler had crashed into a tree but its wheels were still spinning, which was fanning the flames that were spreading through the vehicle.
He feared the driver was dead, but he was determined to get him out of the burning vehicle.
"I really didn't think I was saving his life. I really didn't want to see him burn."
But as he dragged Braley out of the car, the two fell to the ground together - and he saw Braley's chest rise and fall.
The left side of his skull was crushed; his jaw, left arm and several ribs were broken; and his liver and spleen were damaged.
Harry escaped with just a burn to the tip of his black nose - and a new apprehension about driving. "It took him a long time to jump in the car again," said Braley.
The Union Leader Hero Awards honor New Hampshire residents who have risked their lives in the previous year to save or attempt to save the life of another person. The program is sponsored by Citizens Bank and presented by the New Hampshire Union Leader.
For more information, contact Community Relations Manager Shannon Sullivan at 206-7833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Hero Awards
The Union Leader Hero Awards honor New Hampshire residents who have risked their lives in the previous year to save or attempt to save the life of another person.
The program is sponsored by Citizens Bank and presented by the New Hampshire Union Leader.
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