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Blue Line Hero Eddie Palacios Gets Valor Medal from Homeland Security Boss

By DNAinfo Staff | May 14, 2014 10:10am | Updated on May 14, 2014 11:17am
Man Jumps on Blue Line Tracks to Stop Oncoming Train from Hitting Woman
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DNAinfo/Jon Hansen

CHICAGO — In the six weeks since his heroic rescue of a woman who fell onto the Blue Line tracks, things have changed a bit for O'Hare Airport TSA agent Eddie Palacios.

"At work, I get that support, the nod, that smile from my fellow counterparts who work with me," Palacios said. "They feel good that I did what I did."

Palacios, who made national headlines by jumping onto the Blue Line tracks to keep an oncoming train from hitting the fallen woman, got a big nod from his big boss Wednesday morning.

At a ceremony in Washington, D.C., the Pilsen native was given the new Secretary's Award for Valor from Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Palacios was one of 10 recipients this year.

 Eddie Palacios, 50, of Pilsen jumped down on the Blue Line tracks to save a woman as a train approached.
Eddie Palacios, 50, of Pilsen jumped down on the Blue Line tracks to save a woman as a train approached.
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DNAinfo/Jon Hansen

"Today we highlight the character and integrity of our people within DHS, exemplified by ten individuals across the Department who have responded selflessly, concerned not for themselves, but with doing whatever they could to help others," Johnson said in a statement.

Eddie joined DNAinfo Radio after receiving the award:

"Many have told us that the specialized training they received from the Department not only equipped them to do their job safely, but that it also played a role in the unfolding events which led to being honored here today. These actions, which saved lives, exemplify the spirit and mission of the Department of Homeland Security and underscore the commitment the Department’s employees make everyday."

Palacios, who was humble in the hours after the rescue, remained humble Wednesday.

"I was totally taken aback. I didn't think I was in the same caliber league with the other recipients," he told DNAinfo Chicago. "I'm honored to have been with them. ... Words cannot express what I feel."

His rescue was captured on video by DNAinfo Radio News Director Jon Hansen. Palacios, who grew up in Pilsen, said at the time he wasn't trying to be a hero, he just knew he had to help.

"We're good in America, but we still need each other. That's all I can say," Eddie Palacios, 50, told DNAinfo Chicago last month. "I hope one day if I need something, my kids need something, somebody else needs something, somebody will be there. That's what I hope and pray for."

Palacios was on the underground Chicago Avenue Blue Line station's platform, waiting for the train to go to his job as a checkpoint worker at O'Hare Airport, when he heard people yelling at a woman who had fallen onto the inbound tracks just after 11 a.m.

"When I saw the train coming, the first thing I thought to myself was, 'OK, I've got an orange hoodie on. They are bound to see me.' And I jumped on the train [tracks] so they can at least see me, and I'd have time [to get] the person out of the way. I was hoping someone would jump down to help them up because I could see they couldn't get up."

Hansen was on the other end of the platform, waiting for the inbound train, and videotaped the rescue.

The video shows Palacios waving his arms to alert the train, which then stopped short of the platform. The woman was hoisted onto the platform by her hair. She sat on the ground briefly, bleeding from her head. She told a commuter "I just slipped."

She then got up and bolted up the escalator before eventually being stopped and loaded onto an ambulance. She was hospitalized.

Palacios said Wednesday he still hasn't met the woman he saved, but he respects her privacy.

"I wish her well," he said.