BOSTON — A livery driver who helped police thwart a suspected kidnapping was honored Friday with a bravery award named for a flight attendant who was aboard one of the two planes that were hijacked from Boston's Logan International Airport and flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center 14 years ago.
The Madeline Amy Sweeney Award for Civilian Bravery was given Friday to Albeiro Gomez, a Worcester resident, during an annual observance at the Statehouse marking the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
"All I did was (act) as a good citizen," Gomez, a native of Columbia, said through a translator.
On July 20, 2014, Gomez unwittingly picked up a kidnapping suspect and his two captives, a woman and her 11-month-old baby, said Major Gen. Scott Rice, head of the Massachusetts National Guard, in presenting the award.
Gomez realized something was wrong when state police, alerted to the kidnapping, converged on the vehicle on the Massachusetts Turnpike. Rice said Gomez then turned to the back seat and saw the male passenger holding a gun.
"He lunged over the seat and grabbed the gun," said Rice, who called Gomez a "hero in our midst." During the ensuing struggle, he said the woman escaped the vehicle with her baby and state troopers were able to arrest the suspect.
Together with police, "we were able to prevent what could have been a very violent act," said Gomez, who has lived in the U.S. for 15 years. The award was made more special, he said later, because his wife and two daughters in Columbia will soon be able to join him.
Sweeney, an Acton resident, was a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11, the first of two planes hijacked from Boston.
She was credited with discreetly contacting authorities and providing the first key information about the hijackers.
"Amazingly, Amy had the courage and the focus and the bravery to contact the airline's ground services to convey critical information about the five hijackers and their actions," said Polito.
Earlier Friday, Sweeney's daughter, Anna, who was 6 years old when her mother was killed, was among several relatives of 9/11 victims who joined state officials in reading the names of the more than 200 people with Massachusetts connections who died in the attacks.
Other Boston observances included a wreath-laying ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial at the Public Garden, and a moment of silence at the airport at 8:46 a.m., the moment the first hijacked plane struck the World Trade Center.
Plans also called for an 11-foot melted beam from the towers to arrive by motorcycle escort in Dedham during a candlelight vigil to honor those killed on Sept. 11 and military service members who died in the overseas conflicts that followed.