Guy Hawk was in the company of extraordinary people last Friday in Vancouver.
Some were there with Hawk at the Chan Centre of the Performing Arts to be honoured for exemplary service, others for military meritorious service or other notable achievements—150 people in all.
Hawk himself was standing with four other people selected for their acts of bravery, ready to receive a medal from the Governor General of Canada, David Johnston.
“It was quite a thing, I’m a little bit flattered by it all,” said the 79-year-old Hawk. “Me, a schmuck from the bush? What’s going on here?”
But Medals of Bravery aren’t handed out to schmucks, according to the Governor General’s website, the medals are for “people who risk their lives and choose to defy their own instinct of survival to try to save a loved one or a perfect stranger whose life is in immediate danger.”
In Hawk’s instance, the act of courage was running into a burning mobile home to rescue a neighbour near his home in Tapadera Estates in the winter rain seven years ago.
On Nov. 21, 2009 during a power outage in some bad weather, he looked out his window to see a flash in another trailer on the grounds.
“The trailer right behind me, a little park model, it was on fire,” Hawk said. “I went out to have a look and there was somebody yelling for help so I rushed over there.”
He arrived at the trailer as thick black smoke was billowing out. Someone told him the door was locked.
“Well the place was on fire and the lady was inside so I kicked down the door in order to get in,” Hawk said remembering the day.
Sliding on the floor under the dense, swirling smoke, the former butcher discovered the resident’s deceased dog.
As he was moving the animal, he noticed it had been on the woman’s foot.
“Fortunately I did that… I wouldn’t have seen her otherwise,” Hawk said.
He pulled her out amidst the popping explosions of the structure burning around him and got his neighbour out onto the cold cement where she started to breathe again.
Hawk ran back in to see if the woman’s grandchildren were visiting on that unlucky day.
He remembers the porcelain of the stove crackling and popping off in the heat, dishes blowing up and the refrigerator melting.
“I slid back into the bedroom to see if I could find the kids, but I couldn’t see, I couldn’t feel them so I left,” Hawk said. “As soon as I got out the door it just went ‘poof!’ Thankfully I got out in time.”
Despite what he saw happening to the trailer around him, Hawk in his nylon jacket was miraculously untouched by the heat.
“Go figure,” he said with a hearty laugh. “Somebody’s looking out for me.”
His wife Fran said it was probably the trips back out into the pouring rain that helped protect Hawk from the rain.
She adds that she hopes he’s not going to be jumping into any more flaming trailers, and he should be happy with one Medal of Bravery.
“I was really flattered that they were going to give me a medal for this because it just didn’t dawn on me,” Hawk said. “I wasn’t expecting anything of course.”
According to the website, the Governor General presents honours “on behalf of all Canadians in communities across the country to help share inspiring stories, celebrate tremendous contributions to our society and connect with Canadians. From community volunteers to astronauts, from actors to members of the military, from scholars to everyday citizens, hundreds of Canadians earn our applause and gratitude.”
• For more information about honours or to nominate someone who inspires you, visit www.gg.ca/honours.