Flight 93 Memorial Group to Honor Detroit Firefighter Who Died Saving Children

Memorial for Fallen Detroit Sgt Sivad Johnson
Photo: City of Detroit

Frank Witsil

Detroit Free Press

(MCT)

Sgt. Sivad Johnson, a veteran Detroit firefighter who died saving two girls while off duty, was honored last year for his sacrifice.

His courage and heroism will be recognized — again — this Friday as part of an event memorializing the 40 passengers and crew aboard Flight 93 who died thwarting a terrorist attack on 9/11.

The Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial named Johnson one of four finalists for its inaugural Flight 93 Heroes Award. He was selected out of about 50 nominees nationwide for heroic acts in 2020.

Donna Gibson, president of the Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial, said the awards highlight the bravery of four “everyday people who in a crisis took action, just like those on-board Flight 93.”

The group is set to announce the winner among the four in a ceremony at the memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the jet crashed nearly 20 years ago.

United Airlines Flight 93 was hijacked by four terrorists. But passengers and flight attendants learned from phone calls terrorists had hijacked airliners and targeted the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon near the nation’s capital.

The passengers then stormed the aircraft’s cockpit, preventing the terrorists from hitting their target, which was likely the White House or U.S. Capitol, in Washington, D.C.

The panel that selected the finalists included families of the passengers and crew of the flight, representatives of the Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial board, the National Park Service and National Park Foundation.

Johnson, who was respected and beloved by colleagues, had dedicated his life to serving others. When he wasn’t fighting fires, he gave inspirational speeches. One, in 2018, was titled, “To Bravely Do or Bravely Die.”

Johnson, 49, was at Belle Isle on Aug. 21, 2020, with his 10-year-old daughter when he heard witnesses say young girls were drowning. He and another person dived into the water to save them. But, when Johnson didn’t return, his daughter dialed 911.

Divers later recovered his body.

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Johnson’s actions were widely recognized in Detroit and upheld as the kind of bravery that first responders show. Detroit’s newest fireboat and a Spirit of Detroit award was named in his honor.

The other finalists for the award are:

  • Justin Gavin, who on Sept. 9, 2020, rescued a mother and three children from a burning car in Waterbury, Connecticut. He pulled them out before flames engulfed the vehicle.
  • Terry Ingram, who was photographing eagles in Bellevue, Nebraska, on Jan. 9, 2020, saw a car plunge into a freezing pond. He jumped into the icy water and pulled three men out of the vehicle as it slipped below the surface.
  • Red Tate, who saved a man by pulling him out of a vehicle that had rolled down an embankment in Dekalb County, Georgia, on Nov. 27, 2020. After he rescued the man, the car exploded.

Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial, which was established in 2009, is a nonprofit that aims to promote awareness of the memorial and provide volunteer support.

Contact Frank Witsil: 313-222-5022 or fwitsil@freepress.com.

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