Ground Zero Chief Receives Navy and Marine Corps Medal for Heroism

Story Number: NNS021204-09Release Date: 12/4/2002 11:53:00 AM
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By Journalist Second Class Denny Lester, Commander U.S. Naval Central Forces/ Commander U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs

MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- "I'm not going to say a word," began Commander U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/ Commander U.S. 5th Fleet Vice Adm. Timothy J. Keating, addressing the Sailor who stood before him. The handful of onlookers gathered for the intimate ceremony in his office needed no explanation either. The citation said it all.

"For heroism," it read.

"I don't feel like a hero," admitted Chief Boatswain's Mate, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, (EOD) Jim Prewitt.

Unaccustomed to the spotlight, Prewitt preferred to be anywhere but front and center.

"I'm not usually the one out in front. I try to keep a low profile, but I want to share this experience so other Sailors know they may have to call on their Navy training someday to do their part to help their fellow man."

As an EOD member, it is not uncommon to be placed in situations where things can turn ugly in a hurry, but for Prewitt and every other American, there was nothing common about the morning of Sept. 11.

"For years, nothing significant happened," said Prewitt. "But with this job, on that day, everything happened at once."

That morning, Prewitt, assigned to EOD Mobile Unit 6, was working as a team leader with the U.S. Secret Service in New York City. While on his way to a brief in building seven of the World Trade Center Complex, the first plane struck the north tower.

"I was about 50 to 75 yards away," said Prewitt. "No one knew what had happened. We just thought it was a large explosion."

After using his EOD Secret Service pin and credentials to identify himself to police officers at the scene, Prewitt assisted a female suffering severe head trauma by controlling the bleeding and leading her to safety and medical help. Prewitt then continued to aid the injured and disoriented people who were staring at the towers, and helped them find cover.

"I was able to judge the falling debris and get out of the way. I kept thinking back to my EOD training and remembering 'seek frontal and overhead protection.' I was trying to think how I could stay safe and help others at the same time," explained Prewitt. "Everything fell in line with what I had learned during my EOD training. Without that, I probably would have been there with everyone else -- staring up at those buildings."

When the towers collapsed, Prewitt stayed in the area and assisted victims who had been overcome with breathing difficulties from the ash and pulverized concrete. He also dug out several people who were trapped under vehicles, and led them through the cloud of dust and falling debris to safety.

"I prayed like everyone else prayed. I felt calm," admitted Prewitt. I didn't feel like I was going to get hurt - someone was watching over me."

Now, more than a year later, with a Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroism pinned upon his chest, Prewitt accepts the honor with a mixture of pride and sorrow.

"I'm grateful, but wish it had never happened. I don't feel like I deserve it. I did all I could that day, but don't feel like I need to receive an award for what I did. Being alive is award enough for me."

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The Navy and Marine Corps Medal is pinned on the uniform of Chief Boatswain's Mate Jim Prewitt.
021125-N-4943L-002 Manama, Bahrain (Nov. 25, 2002) -- The Navy and Marine Corps Medal is pinned on the uniform of Chief Boatswain's Mate Jim Prewitt. Chief Prewitt was presented the medal for heroism while serving with Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Six, Charleston, S.C., on Sept. 11, 2001, where he displayed extraordinary heroism and bravery in the face of extreme danger. Chief Prewitt was working with the Secret Service in New York City during the attack on the North Tower of the World Trade Center. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 2nd Class Denny Lester. (RELEASED)
November 27, 2002
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