Roosevelt Intermediate School teacher Matthew Kalafat, who rescued a 26-year-old woman from drowning at Point Pleasant Beach in September of 2016, is among 18 Americans to be awarded a Carnegie Medal for heroism by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission.

On September 25, 2016, Dishita Pandya was in wadable water in the Atlantic Ocean near high tide when she was struck by a wave and carried from shore, according to a news release from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission.  Kalafat, whose wife woke him to alert him to the emergency, dove into the water and swam to where Pandya was floating face-down and unconscious, towing her with difficulty back to the beach.  She was resuscitated, transported to a hospital, and ultimately recovered.

“I acted without thinking,” says Kalafat, a father of three who teaches language arts and journalism at the intermediate school in Westfield.  “I jumped in the ocean, not realizing no one else was in there.  I had been asleep on the beach.  I lived by the ocean and used to swim all the time - day or night.  Still, I was very lucky.”

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The Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Hero Fund Commission was established in 1904 by industrialist/philanthropist Andrew Carnegie to acknowledge acts of selfless heroism performed by individuals who have risked their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the lives of others.

“I did some research and found out [the Carnegie Medal] is unique.  I don’t feel as if  I belong with some of the other names,” says Kalafat about other Carnegie Medal recipients from across the United States who include a 56-year-old school cafeteria clerk who came to the aid of a wounded police officer trying to subdue a suspect and a 38-year-old radiographic technologist who suffered burns while attempting to save the pilot of a fiery helicopter crash.

A gala will be held in June in Pittsburgh to honor the Carnegie Medal recipients.