Charles County teacher receives prestigious award for bravery

John Hollyfield (ABC7 photo) 

For North Point High School manufacturing teacher John Hollyfield, July 9, 2015 was no ordinary day. Hollyfield recalled, "We had just fired up the barbecue grill right over by the tree." The gathering at Moyaone Reserve in Accokeek, Maryland was going smoothly until, "I looked up in the tree and I saw a five foot long crack.

About a minute later, it popped and cracked again and then I saw the crack get larger and so I went into an alarm mode and I cleared the whole picnic ground," Hollyfield told ABC7 News. The father-of-two managed to clear out everyone except a six-year-old girl named Ashley; who despite the calls to get out of the way, was frozen at the top of the sliding board.

Hollyfield continued, "So I went over there, grabbed her by the arm, pulled her off, and as soon as I got back over there, boom! Within seconds, the 80-foot long branch fell down."

Hollyfield told his students about what happened in the park that day but never expected to receive a prestigious award; the same award his great-grandfather received decades ago. The Carnegie Medal was also bestowed on Hollyfield's great-grandfather for an act of bravery in 1924.

Tragically, James Hermansen died saving a young boy from a group of horses and a runaway wagon.

Seventeen-year-old Austun Reid, is impressed with his teacher's valor. "It makes me think of him higher than I did before because he saved somebody," he expressed. 16-year-old Jacadi Tillman agreed. "He's always paying attention. He's very observant so it's not hard to believe and it's an honor to be in the presence of somebody who did this."

When asked if he considers himself a hero Hollyfield replied, "No. I just reacted to a situation. I didn't consider it at the time, I just reacted and it happened the way it did and I'm just thankful that nobody got hurt." So is little Ashley who gave Hollyfield a card that reads, "Thank you for saving my life."

In addition to a certificate and medal, Hollyfield received a $5,000 cash prize from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission which has been recognizing acts of heroism in the U.S. since 1904.

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