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Matthew Miller earlier this month revisited the spot where he helped pull injured survivors of the I-35W bridge collapse out of rescue boats and carry them to ambulances. He will receive a national citizen award from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

Bridge hero to get national award

  • Article by: KEVIN DIAZ
  • Star Tribune
  • March 24, 2008 - 7:20 PM

WASHINGTON -- Matthew Miller, one of the heroes of last summer's Interstate 35W bridge collapse, will receive a national citizen award today from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

Miller, 22, is one of three winners of the inaugural Above & Beyond Citizen Honors, chosen from 51 finalists representing each state and the District of Columbia.

The Bethel University student is being recognized for his efforts to help save scores of people in the initial hours after the Aug. 1 bridge disaster, which killed 13 people. At the time, he was working a summer construction job on the bridge.

The Congressional Medal of Honor Society is made up of 105 living Medal of Honor winners. Its co-chairs include retired Gen. Colin Powell and former Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

The award will be presented at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. The ceremony will be hosted by Powell and "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams.

The Citizen Honors, the first national award given in connection with the Minneapolis bridge collapse, are intended to recognize citizens who "made a difference in the lives of others through a singular act of extraordinary heroism or through their continued commitment to putting others before themselves."

Miller was credited by police and co-workers with hustling to the bottom of the Mississippi River embankment -- under the collapsed bridge span -- and carrying many injured motorists to safety, including members of a family of four from Savage.

"I'm really not a hero," Miller said in a recent interview with the Star Tribune. "I don't need to have that label." He credited much of his action to his personal religious faith.

Miller's actions, initially unheralded in public, were brought to light by Tom Sloan, a vice president at Progressive Contractors Inc., the company that employed Miller. He was nominated for the award by officials at Bethel University in Arden Hills, an evangelical school where he is a senior in physical education.

The other winners are Jencie Fagan, a Nevada teacher who stood up to an armed student who had wounded two pupils, and Don Schoendorfer, a California engineer and advocate for the disabled who is credited with making and distributing more than 250,000 wheelchairs for people in need.

The three winners' stories will be featured on Wednesday's "NBC Today Show" and at www. aboveandbeyond365.com.

In addition, Miller has been chosen to throw out the first pitch at the Minnesota Twins' home opener on Monday.

Kevin Diaz • 202-408-2753

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