Award named for Flight 11 attendant presented as Massachusetts marks Sept. 11 anniversary

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BOSTON — A Fall River man who left his car and rushed into a burning building to alert residents to a fire was honored Thursday with a civilian bravery award named for a flight attendant aboard one of two jetliners that were hijacked from Boston's airport and flown into the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001.

The presentation of the annual Madeline Amy Sweeney award by the Massachusetts 9/11 Fund was among several Boston events marking the 13th anniversary of the terror attacks.

Michael DeSousa was stopped at a traffic light on July 6, 2013, when he saw flames coming from a nearby apartment building. He forced open a door to a hallway and began knocking on doors to warn residents.

"Several lives were saved because Michael DeSousa put the safety of others ahead of his own," Gov. Deval Patrick said in a statement. "That same selfless disregard for personal danger Madeline Amy Sweeney displayed thirteen years ago is what we honor today."

Sweeney, an Acton resident, was a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11 and was able to discreetly contact ground crews and provide the first critical information to authorities about the actions of the terrorists.

DeSousa was emotional as he accepted the award during a Statehouse ceremony attended by Sweeney's family and many of the more than 200 other victims of the attacks with Massachusetts ties.

Recalling how one elderly woman had difficulty understanding the danger and was reluctant to leave her home, DeSousa described how he spoke to her, first in English and then in her native Portuguese, before lifting her up and carrying her to safety. It was then, he said, the woman kissed his cheek and thanked him.

DeSousa then went into an adjacent building to warn residents of the fire.

Other commemorations Thursday included a wreath laying ceremony in Boston's Public Garden, where a memorial honors the victims with ties to Massachusetts. Later, the names of the victims were read on the Statehouse lawn, interrupted by a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., the moment Flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

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