Violet Township firefighter Barry Wright doesn't see himself as a hero.
To hear him tell it, he was simply doing his job when he helped save a trapped man from drowning in an overturned cement mixer in July 2011.
The Licking County Chapter of the American Red Cross thought otherwise and honored Wright with its Hometown Hero Award at a breakfast ceremony March 13 at the Metropolitan Hotel in downtown Newark.
Chapter Director Rod Cook said Wright's actions on that summer morning more than measured up to the standard definition of a hero.
"Mr. Wright was responding to a cement truck accident in southwest Licking County. The truck overturned into a drainage ditch and because of its conical shape, the water came up the back into the cab," Cook said. "The driver of the truck had his legs pinned and he was hanging upside down as the water was backing up in the truck."
Cook said Wright was working as a flight nurse for MedFlight at the time.
"Mr. Wright was able to wedge open the door and climb into the cab with the victim, then held the victim's head up out of the water for an hour and a half until they could extricate him," Cook said, adding that the composition of the water was a particularly noxious stew of various fluids.
"Keep in mind this water was full of diesel fuel from the truck and pesticides running off from the nearby field, so it was contaminated," he said.
Wright agreed with Cook's explanation of the accident but was quick to acknowledge he had some help with the rescue.
"I was one of many people there," he said. "It was a collaborative effort between many different departments. I just happened to be the one in the water, face to face, holding him up where everybody else worked at freeing him. We all did what we were trained to do that day."
Cook said the Hometown Hero Award is an opportunity "to recognize individuals in the community that are doing some really great things to either save a life or help the community."
Wright said he was surprised to be nominated.
"I was at the firehouse a couple of weeks ago for a medic refresher class. Just before we went on break, Rod Cook and the Red Cross folks walked in and let me know I was going to be receiving the award," he said.
He was in for a bigger surprise at the award ceremony when the victim of the accident, Jamey Hall, showed up to personally thank Wright for saving his life.
"They announced (Hall's) name. I didn't know his name," Wright said. "It's not uncommon for us to not know names. When he stood up, I knew exactly who it was."
He hadn't seen Hall since he was taken out of the cement mixer 20 months ago.
"That was pretty neat. He thanked me," Wright said.
In addition to serving as a full-time firefighter and paramedic with the Violet Township Fire Department for more than 14 years, Wright also is still a flight nurse in Licking County, where he was born and raised and still resides.