Subway hero – a true story (with activities for the ELT classroom)

subway hero photo from English in Mind 2nd Edition by Puchta and Stranks

subway hero photo from English in Mind 2nd Edition by Puchta and Stranks

This is an amazing and inspiring true story that we want to share with you. It’s a story that everyone should read (and below you can find clips of television news and interviews about the incident). We found it in the second edition of English in Mind by Herbert Puchta and Jeff Stranks and should you wish to use it in class we’ve recreated the coursebook activities here in the blog and added a link below for you to download the original page of the book.

Look at the pictures above. What do you think the text will be about?

a – A man who didn’t feel well on the platform of a New York subway station.

b – A man who saved another man in the New York subway

c – The man who designed the platforms of the New York subway.

Read the text quickly and check your answer.

It was 12.45 pm on January 2nd 2007. 50 year-old Wesley Autrey was waiting for the train at a subway station in New York. His two daughters, aged four and six, were with him.

Suddenly a sick man collapsed on the platform. 20 year-old Cameron Hollopeter got up, but then fell again – this time onto the track between the two rails. A train was coming into the station. It was a frightening moment.

But Mr Autrey wasn’t frightened. He looked at the man, and he looked at the space the man was in. It was about half a metre deep. And he thought “The train is going to travel over this man. If he tries to get up the train will kill him. But if he lies on the ground and he doesn’t move, he’ll be OK.”  So he knew he had to make a decision.

He jumped. Mr Autrey lay on top of Mr Hollopeter and kept him down on the ground. The train driver saw them. He was terrified, but he couldn’t stop in time. Five carriages travelled over the two men before the train stopped.

The people on the platform were shocked. When Mr Autrey heard them screaming he shouted “We’re OK down here, but I’ve got two daughters up there. Let them know their father’s OK.” People on the platform clapped and cheered – they were amazed at Autrey’s courage. Subway workers helped the two men out. An ambulance took Mr Hollopeter to hospital. He had no serious injuries.

In an interview on a TV show Mr Autrey said “The only thing that happened to me was my blue hat got dirty.”

He added “I wasn’t brave. I didn’t do anything special. I just saw someone who needed help. I did what I thought was right.”

Now read the text again. Answer the questions.

1 – Why did Mr Hollopeter fall onto the platform and then onto the track?

2 – How deep was the space where Mr Hollopeter fell?

3 – Why did five subway carriages travel over the two men?

4 – Who was Mr Autrey worried about when the train stopped?

5 – What was the only thing that happened to Mr Autrey?


Here is the full page from English in Mind…..

subway hero - the full page from English in Mind

subway hero – the full page from English in Mind

And here is a CBS news report on the incident….



And an interview with Wesley Autrey on the David Letterman show…

Many thanks to Herbert Puchta for permission to use this material on the blog and for suggesting the youtube links.


About The Henry Brothers

We are English teachers involved in ELT publishing in Turkey, and also touring the country giving workshops and presentations to English teachers, mainly on the use of poetry, storytelling and other lively activities in the classroom. We can be contacted by e-mail to or
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One Response to Subway hero – a true story (with activities for the ELT classroom)

  1. Anissa says:

    Thanks for sharing. I’ll definitely use it in class.

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