BOSTON (WPRI) – As Massachusetts leaders gathered to remember the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, they took a moment to honor another hero.
In a State House ceremony Sunday, George Heath was posthumously presented the Madeleine Amy Sweeney award for bravery for his role in trying to stop a man who went on a stabbing rampage in Taunton earlier this year.
Heath, a visual arts teacher at the Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical School, intervened when the knife-wielding suspect burst into the Bertucci’s restaurant at the Silver City Galleria on May 10th. The suspect began to stab employees and patrons and Heath put himself between the suspect and a pregnant woman, at which point he was fatally stabbed. The pregnant woman, although hurt, survived, as did her child.
Police shot and killed the suspect a short time later.
“When faced with the horror of an armed attacker, George Heath did not hesitate for an instant to act decisively to defend the safety of those around him,” Governor Charlie Baker said . “George Heath showed the same type of character and resolve that defined the heroes of 9/11 and it is our privilege to honor his sacrifice on this solemn anniversary.”
The award is named for Madeleine Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant who was aboard American Airlines Flight 11 when it hit the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Before the hijackers crashed the plane, Sweeney was able to relay important information about the hijacking to authorities on the ground.