Lenny Skutnik

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Martin Leonard Skutnik III (born 1953 in Mississippi, known as Lenny)[1][2] is a retired employee of the United States Congressional Budget Office[3] who, on January 13, 1982, saved a woman's life following the crash of Air Florida Flight 90 into the frozen Potomac River, Washington, D.C. As passengers were being rescued, one woman was too weak to take hold of the line dropped from a helicopter. Skutnik – one of hundreds of people bystanders – dove into the icy water and brought the woman to the river shore.[4]

U.S. President Ronald Reagan invited Skutnik to attend the 1982 State of the Union address on January 26, 1982, where he sat next to First Lady Nancy Reagan. Reagan praised Skutnik as follows:

Just two weeks ago, in the midst of a terrible tragedy on the Potomac, we saw again the spirit of American heroism at its finest: the heroism of dedicated rescue workers saving crash victims from icy waters.

And, we saw the heroism of one of our young government employees, Lenny Skutnik, who, when he saw a woman lose her grip on the helicopter line, dived into the water and dragged her to safety.

Skutnik received a standing ovation from the audience.[5] Since then, others invited to sit in the Presidential gallery and honored in the president's speech have often been called Lenny Skutniks.[6][7]

Skutnik received the United States Coast Guard's Gold Lifesaving Medal, the Carnegie Hero Fund Medal, and various other tributes.[1][2] In 2010 he retired from his position as a printing and distribution assistant for the Congressional Budget Office.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Shereikis, Richard, "Heroes Don't Need Zip Codes: Lenny Skutnik - Accidental Hero", in The Hero in Transition (Ray B. Browne, Marshall W. Fishwick, editors). Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1983 (ISBN 0-87972-237-1), pp. 107-114.
  2. ^ a b Krebs, Albin; Thomas, Robert McG. (4 February 1982). "Notes on People: Rescuer Honored". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-06-06. Retrieved 2010-06-07. 
  4. ^ "In a Moment of Horror, Rousing Acts of Courage". The Washington Post. 13 January 2007. 
  5. ^ Howell Raines (27 January 1982). "Reagan Vows to Keep Tax Cuts; Proposes $47 Billion Transfer of Social Programs to States". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
  6. ^ Francis X. Clines (24 August 1996). "Bonding as New Political Theater: Bring On the Babies and Cue the Yellow Dog". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
  7. ^ William Safire (8 July 2001). "The Way We Live Now: 07-08-01: On Language;". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
  8. ^ John M. Spratt, Jr., Recognizing Martin Leonard Skutnik, 2010 Congressional Record, Vol. 156, Page E1050 (June 9, 2010)

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