- Executive Office of Public Safety and Security
Media Contact for Four Berlin Residents Awarded the Madeline “Amy” Sweeney Award for Civilian Bravery as part of Annual 9/11 Commemoration
Elaine Driscoll, Director of Communications and Policy
Boston — Today, in a ceremony commemorating the 22nd anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll presented the Madeline “Amy” Sweeney Award for Civilian Bravery to four Berlin residents for their extraordinary rescue following an explosion in a residential area. This annual award honors civilians who demonstrate exceptional bravery, without regard for personal safety, to save the life of another in actual, imminent danger.
On the evening of April 13, 2023, residents smelled propane in the back yard of a single-family home where two 100-pound liquid propane gas cylinders were located. Although the fuel company responded and relocated the tank to a location about 20 feet from the home, the tank continued to leak propane gas. The gas, which is heavier than air, traveled through the fieldstone foundation and basement walkout into the home’s basement. Shortly before 3:30 am on the morning of April 14, the gas was ignited and caused an explosion that demolished the two-story structure completely, damaged three neighboring homes, and two vehicles.
In the aftermath of the explosion, knowing that two women lived in the collapsed home engulfed in flames, Brian and Dylan Clemmer, Bobby Wheeler, and Jonathan Golas put their own personal safety at risk to help. Together with the assistance of Berlin Police Officer Molly Plante, the team searched the scene for any signs of life. Hearing cries for help under the debris, they successfully rescued a woman crying out for help. The team carried the woman over live power lines to safety moments before a second explosion engulfed the site and claimed the life of the remaining occupant, a 79-year-old woman.
“On this anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we remember and honor the 2,977 people who were killed senselessly and the courage and generosity of those who responded to that horrible day,” said Governor Maura Healey. “Today’s poignant commemorations and the presentation of the Sweeney Award remind us that our capacity for collective resilience and compassion for our neighbors will never waiver.”
Known as “Amy,” Ms. Sweeney was an American Airlines flight attendant for 14 years. She lived in Acton, Massachusetts with her husband and their two small children. On September 11, 2001, she was killed aboard American Airlines Flight 11, the first aircraft hijacked by terrorists and flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. In the flight’s final minutes, Sweeney contacted the airline’s ground services crew to convey critical information about the hijackers and their actions on the plane that morning. It is for her heroism and all victims of September 11, 2001, that this award was created.
“It is an honor on this important day of remembrance to join members of the Massachusetts 9/11 community and Amy Sweeney’s family to present this award to four individuals who took extraordinary action at tremendous personal risk,” said Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll. “Faced with the danger of an active fire in a hazardous structure, their courageous decision to search and rescue made the difference between life and death. May their example, together with those of the 9/11 community, inspire us to lead lives rooted in service of our neighbors.”
“As the world honors the memory of the victims of September 11, the annual Sweeney Award provides an important opportunity in Massachusetts to recognize remarkable acts of bravery demonstrated by civilians who risked their personal safety to save the life of another,” said Public Safety and Security Secretary Terrence Reidy. “As Amy’s conversation with officials on the ground provided critical, real-time information about the 9/11 attacks, these Berlin residents swift response to locate and save a person buried beneath a demolished home saved her life. On this 22nd anniversary of 9/11, we renew our promise to never forget.”
The fire ultimately required personnel from 10 communities to responded to the scene. Investigators from the Berlin Fire Department, Berlin Police Department, State Police Fire & Explosion Investigation Unit assigned to the State Fire Marshal’s office, State Police assigned to the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office, and the Department of Fire Services’ Code Compliance & Enforcement Unit found no evidence that the explosion was suspicious in nature. That said, this tragedy illustrates the danger of improperly stored fuel and the importance of maintaining equipment regularly.
Today’s recipients were nominated by Berlin Fire Chief Michael McQuillen and Police Chief Eric Schartner. They were selected by the Madeline Amy Sweeney Award for Civilian Bravery Selection Committee, which is chaired by Lt. Governor Driscoll.
Media Contact: Elaine Driscoll, firstname.lastname@example.org