By ROGER G. SMITH
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
Year 2001 was one for the heroes -- locally, and well before Sept. 11.
Before the nationwide outpouring of public thanks for police and firefighters in the tragedy's aftermath, there were people like Nick Radich Jr. and Daryl Anderson.
Radich reluctantly talks about it today, but what he and Anderson experienced a year ago exemplifies the spirit of The Vindicator's 2001 list of People Who Made a Difference.
The list, compiled by reporters and editors, highlights people from all walks of life who have stood out or put others ahead of themselves.
Fire: Radich and Anderson were among the Warren firefighters who rushed into a house on Williamsburg Street N.W. despite heavy smoke. They found a woman at the top of the stairs. They were carrying out the victim, who died, when the oxygen-starved fire erupted as they opened a door.
Radich, with the department since 1995, suffered second-degree burns, mostly on his arms and hands. Anderson, a 15-year-veteran, suffered third-degree burns on his left hand and lesser damage to his arms.
Both returned to work about four months later.
Despite the pain of skin grafts, today Radich says everything is fine. "I try not to dwell on that," he said. "I just moved on."
He'll reluctantly concede, however, at least for a moment.
"You can feel the heat a little more, through the coat," he said of his burned arms, but quickly added: "It's not that bad."
Anderson has had a more difficult time. There are flashbacks and nightmares, and Sept. 11 "really knocked me back," he said.
Nonetheless, he keeps answering the bell, appreciating everything more today: his family, his health, his fellow firefighters, a department that is again at full staff, and the public, which raised money or otherwise supported him and Radich.
"You appreciate more so the fact you're still alive," he said.
Police: Uncommon valor displayed itself multiple times in the Warren police department.
In early February, Sgt. Joseph O'Grady hailed officers Chris Clementi and Jeff Miller for pulling four young people from a violent car crash on Elm Road moments before the vehicle exploded. Two youths died, but the other two survived. The others easily could have died without the two officers, he said.
Then, later that month, O'Grady was cited for risking his own life to pull a 13-year-old girl from an icy pond. Unfortunately, the girl later died. O'Grady then went one step beyond, raising money to fly the girl's mother here from California for the funeral.
Youths: Last year's heroes weren't just adults, either.
Heather Hagan, a newspaper carrier in the ninth grade in Mercer County, saved a customer after she noticed that papers were piling up at the door. She called 911, and rescue workers found the customer left helpless by a stroke.
Jason Hollobaugh, a 12-year-old Youngstown West Sider, got help for a woman he found slumped over her steering wheel as he skated through a parking lot. Rescue workers said he likely saved her life.
9/11: Like so much else the day changed, Sept. 11 added a whole new group to the list of heroes in the Mahoning and Shenango valleys who made a difference.
Scores of residents ages 5 and up, too numerous to name, in some way helped victims of the attacks in New York and Washington.
Some offered their professional services at the sites. Many others raised money or donated their own.
Then, there were those who helped recognize the heroes. In just a few weeks, Tim Mulholland and his St. Patrick's Day parade committee pulled together a "Tribute to American Heroes: A Red, White and Blue Parade" in November.
Close to home: Less dramatic than the others -- but not necessarily less important -- were those who made a difference by tackling their neighborhoods' appearance problems.
Dozens of people from cities, suburbs and rural areas called for the elimination of eyesores in a series of Vindicator stories in May.
Many took action.
U The Mahoning County manager for the Ohio Department of Transportation put a special emphasis on cleaning up along Interstate 680.
U The Youngstown Area Council, part of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce, revived the city Neighborhood Pride Award.
U Numerous block watch, school and church groups in the area organized cleanups and took on community service projects, such as fixing up vacant lots or improving public property.
U The volunteer Streetscape group added to their annual summer improvements to downtown. Group members planted bulbs in the fall so flowers will bloom in the spring.
Sister Annette Amendolia, of St. Stephen of Hungary Church, summed up the reasons why so many tried so hard in 2001.
Her steps to ensure the future of her church germinated into a multidenominational effort that perked up nearby East Side churches and the surrounding neighborhood.
"The more pride you share, the more pride you take in your street," Sister Annette said. "The more we come together on issues, the more we can make a difference."