15 Minutes of Fame

This page is the receptacle for all things related to my experience on Sunday, April 10th, 2011 while riding the subway in Atlanta, Georgia.    

media pic

The short version: I grabbed a guy who was getting electrified by the third rail and in the process got myself shocked a bit too. Police told me later I saved the guy’s life. Yay for me. But I also knew as a former firefighter that it was a total idiot move on my part (you don’t grab people who are actively being shocked to death). Anyway, someone caught the incident on video, posted on YouTube, and and the story got some national attention over the next two weeks (6+ million online hits and 11+ million television viewers). National appearances include the Dr. Drew Show and Fox & Friends. A key takeaway from the experience is that producers should be doing a better job screening television guests with speech impairments (#notimpressed).

fox and friends

Never thought I’d ever be on Fox & Friends chatting with the Doocy.  Did you know they had almost 2 million daily viewers (probably higher now)?  My one regret: If I would have had 3 more seconds I would have said, “…and if Jon Stewart fell on the third rail, I’m sure you would  save him too!”  I missed my chance to generate a potentially hilarious poignant and awkward moment.  Who knows?  Maybe the the clip would have been picked up by Jon Stewart.  Maybe I would have been invited as a guest on the Daily Show and fulfilled my life’s ambition!

Original YouTube Video

Alicia found the original video online when it had 3 hits that captures the end of the incident.  Everyone screams when the man on the tracks is getting shocked and electricity is arching up and down his body.  You can’t see the electrcity in the video.  However, if you listen really carefully, when I lean towards him, I think you can hear me yelling “…stand the f*ck up!”

Why I was Late for Work Today”  – my initial post 

I wanted to get the story down that night while it was still fresh.  I had started this blog a week earlier and I was jazzed about getting 10-15 hits a day.  But with this crazy story, I thought excitedly, maybe I could get 25 hits!  Instead I got 250 in 52 minutes and 875 the next day. Fun!

Reflections” – the broader meaning 

The interviews got easier and less self-agrandizing when, after a few days, I wrapped my head a bit more around the question: “Lots of people are calling you a hero.  Are you?”

Fox5– my first interview (and my first gaffe!)

Since Alicia and I don’t have a TV, we ran out to a local pub, and watched it there.  At the two minute mark you’ll hear me say, “There are plenty of men and boys out there who would have done the same thing.”  Oh no!  I responded to concerns in the post “Am I Sexist?

CBS Atlanta – my favorite coverage

This reporter was probably the nicest one I met and I was happy to see they kept the “we all do dumb things” quote.

11Alive NBC Morning Show – my first live interview on TV

A cameraman named Drew interviewed me for a normal segment the day before and then later I was invited to a live interview on their morning show.  Afterwards I met the anchors, who were nice, and covered in makeup.   Also, this is when I learned that when they put on that little ear piece a producer somewhere in the building reminds you of the anchor’s name.  I’ve always wondered how politicians always know the names of seemingly every news person they chat with.  Aha!

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution – my first print news media

A reporter called me from the AJC and asked a few questions.  They ran the story on their main page at the time which I thought was neat.  This got a producer on ABC’s Morning Show interested, but that never happened.

Other Random Interviews

I did a radio interview with Nick Mendola in Buffalo, NY on WECK 1230AM.  It was cool.  He gave me a bit more time to discuss the broader context of these types of stories.  AmeriCorps Alums interviewed me and posted it on their blog.  Houghton College also posted the story on their blog.  Both were kind enough to include a bit on the broader message that I was trying to get across.

The Story Goes Viral

In addition to the interview on Fox and Friends, you can see the NBC Today Show coverage on HuluBing (270,000 views! and apparently it was on ABC News?), TV Guide,  MSNBCxfinitytvclickerMSNmyfittv, etc.  I also found it on Transworldnews.comABC7 in Los Angeles, the Great Falls Tribune in Montana, http://thebertshow.com,  www.wickedhype.com,  www.liveleak.com,  www.star94.com,  citizenhero.com,  www.poughkeepsiejournal.com,  http://news.wooeb.com,  http://board.spawn.com,  http://www.associatedcontent.com   (I am glad they ran the quote “we all do dumb things”),  http://www.wopular.com,…..

All my other posts about the incident

Fox5 Picked up the Story — I was excited to be on the news for the first time in my life!

Link to the Fox5 Story — …and I told everyone about it…

More local News coverage  — …twice.

Unjust Justice — Reflections after finding out the man was likely drunk and trying to jump the tracks.

This is New — People were not disagreeing with me anymore, and it felt strange.

It’s a Secret  — I respond to the question, why didn’t more bystanders help?

If you had 5 minutes in front of 2 million people, what would you say?  — Thinking about the moral implications of a vast audience.

Fox & Friends — My experience on a major live news show

Am I Sexist?  — Written later in response to my gaffe

George Zimmerman and Me — reflections a year later in the context of the Trayvon Martin shooting

A Note to George Zimmerman — some advice

Here’s is my appearance on the Dr. Drew show in December, 2012.

10 responses to “15 Minutes of Fame

  • Linda Clifton McCormick

    Dear Jeremy,
    My tears of joy for your decison and protection have not subsided much as this week has unfolded since you extended your hand and heart yo Wes.I’m ever grateful for the angel nearby who warned you to use your head as well! All three of those parts that make up who you are are very well developed and this episode in “the life of Jer” continues to expose and refine all that you are.

    I’m glad I was able to hear your voice a couple of times this week which helped calm this mother’s heart and I know you and Alicia will together make it thru the aftermath with wisdom and grace.

    I always knew God’s call on your life was great and I’m very proud of you for the way you show us Christ in real and risky ways. I may be your mom, but you are my teacher. I love you, Jeremy…..hope you both get some rest and I wish I could be nearby to do the dishes!

  • Cary

    I just got back from China about an hour ago–HOW DID I MISS ALL THIS???
    All I can say is that your true colors came out, Jer. I am not sure all could do that. I am sure most would not. But it is in you.
    And I think your angels were working overtime on that one, too!
    And I am sure it has been and is a surreal experience.
    I am so proud of you, son!

  • Melissa

    A friend of mine (from Atlanta) shared the YouTube video and I saw your wife’s comment and followed it here.

    I couldn’t tell from the video and the comments if I should be sad or worried or mad about Wes being on the tracks, but your explanation and empathy about how we ALL mess up is refreshing. I was also quite upset at how it seemed no one else was helping, but reading that he was getting shocked, I don’t know what I’d have done either.

    You are brave for doing what you did, and I hope many people read your blog and remember your quick wit should they ever have a time of having to think fast and make a difference.

    Well done!

    PS. You are a great blogger:)


  • Jennifer Maddux

    Whoa…what an experience…I’m sure you become more and more thankful for the outcome as the days go by. What a blessing you were to this man!

  • Phia

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us. God Bless you and yours and keep you safe.
    And Yes! You are definitely a Hero!

    • JDW Clifton

      I’ll call myself a hero when you call yourself one too. : ) This whole thing has made me think alot about what bravery is. I used to think that brave people were rare. Now I think the opposite. Most of us are heroes. Just mostly unproven ones. Thanks for your comment.

  • Doris MacDonald

    Jeremy, what a wonderful way to get reconnected with you– the last time I saw you, you were a fourth grader and we were leaving Hong Kong. I know much water has gone under the bridge– I enjoyed lunch with your dad several years ago, and keep in touch through his notes and newsletters. How great to now “see” you as an adult– and to see that the potential sparks in you as a young boy have been flamed into flame. You are a wonderful writer, and I encourage you to keep pursuing a publisher. Would love to read your book someday!
    Love, Mrs. Mac

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