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'Thank you for everything you did;' Gratitude, humility on full display at Hero Awards ceremony

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 09. 2018 9:45PM
Viola Dussault of Manchester thanks Manchester firefighter T.J. Burkush after Wednesday's Union Leader New Hampshire Heroes awards ceremony at the State House in Concord. Burkush and three other firefighters were honored for rescuing Dussault's badly burned son, Stephen, from the family's burning home on Pennsylvania Avenue last August. (Allegra Boverman/Union Leader)
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CONCORD -- Walking with a cane, her lower lip trembling, Viola Dussault slowly approached the members of Manchester Fire’s Rescue Company 1.

Decked out in dress uniforms, the four firefighters — Nik McCulloch, T.J. Burkush, Nick Poulin and Lt. Matt Lamothe — cut imposing figures, but Dussault wasn’t missing this chance to speak to them.

“Thank you,” said Dussault. “Thank you for everything you did. Thank you for saving my son.”

The four were among 18 people honored with New Hampshire Hero Awards during an afternoon ceremony Wednesday on the steps of the State House. The program is sponsored by Citizens Bank and presented by the New Hampshire Union Leader.

The 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.

Last August, McCulloch, Burkush, Poulin and Lamothe dragged Stephen Dussault, 59, out of his home at 244 Pennsylvania St. in Manchester, after his bedroom caught fire. He suffered second-degree burns over 80 percent of his body, and third-degree burns on 15 percent.

The fire started due to careless disposal of smoking materials. Dussault is still recovering from his injuries at a facility in Massachusetts.

Wednesday was the first time members of the Dussault family met the men who rescued Stephen.

“We go to a lot of fires, and we don’t usually get to meet the family afterward,” said Burkush. “To meet them and know that the guy is doing real well, that’s really special.”

“She (Viola) gave us a letter from her son and the family,” said Lamothe. “It’s great to see them here.”

Dussault’s daughter Charlie, 13, said the actions of Rescue 1 have inspired her to pursue a career as a firefighter.

“I never knew how much pain could come from one thing like this,” said Charlie, a student at Hillside Middle School in Manchester. “I just want to help people get through that pain. I just thanked them for everything that they did that day.”

“It’s great that we can inspire anyone, especially young girls, to join the fire service,” said Burkush.

Gov. Chris Sununu said he was inspired by the stories he heard Wednesday.

“It’s one of the best things I get to do as governor, and really personifies what we do here in New Hampshire,” said Sununu. “We are a state of community, where we all understand that sometimes we have to give of ourselves and the individuals we have here today; many of them put their lives on the line with no hesitation.”

At the Union Leader Hero Awards held at the New Hampshire State House on Wednesday, May 9, 2018 in Concord. During a reception after the ceremony, Harry Holt, front row, center, and his family, got to meet New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, behind him. From left are his grandparents Ira and Louise Holt of Gorham, and at right are his mother Heather Holt, and his brother Patrick Holt, 6, all of Dummer. His dad John Holt and baby sister Marie, 20 months were also there, but not pictured. (Allegra Boverman/Union Leader)

The youngest recipient of this year’s Union Leader Hero Awards, 9-year-old Harrison “Harry” Holt of Dummer, left Wednesday’s ceremony with a big smile to go along with his Hero Award. Asked what it was like meeting the governor and being recognized alongside heroes from across the state, Harry’s response was as genuine as his actions last July when he saved his sleeping 11-month-old sister from a fire at their home.

“It was cool,” said Harry, grinning ear to ear.

“We’re honored to be able to meet and recognize some of our state’s greatest residents,” New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News Executive Editor Trent Spiner said. “People with no superpowers, people who were placed in a dangerous situation, but put their own lives on the line to save others.”

“It is truly my honor to be here today,” said Joe Carelli, president of Citizens Bank. “All of these individuals put their lives on the line, for people they didn’t know, to change outcomes.”

The other honorees were: 

• Jon Tamposi of Hollis; 

• State Police Troopers Matthew Locke, Haden Wilber, Eric Call and Farmington Police Sgt. Bryon Gore;

• Trooper Christopher Prenaveau; 

• Leigh Woodbury of Portsmouth; 

• Mandi Whitaker of Windham;

• Pelham Police Officers Adam Thistle and Bruce Vieira; 

• Nashua Fire-Rescue Dive Team member David Robert; 

• Eddie Gallant of Manchester; and 

• Troy Police Cpl. Jeffery Macek.

“We’re trained to do this,” said Burkush. “The everyday people who aren’t trained, those people here, they are the true heroes. We signed up for this work. They didn’t.”

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