It’s rare that we find ourselves in the company of heroes. This year, freshly turned, has already witnessed an act of bravery. Last Thursday, in New York’s Lower East Side, an elevator malfunctioned. Swinging perilously above ground, dozens of floors in the air, 25-year-old Stephen Hewett-Brown made a choice to think of others rather than himself. Along his journey through 25 short years of life, Stephen found something many of us will go our whole lives without.

The problem made itself known late at night. Stephen, along with several other tenants were using the elevator as usual. Among them, Manuel Coronado, 23, was home visiting his grandmother. He, along with Erude Sanchez were waiting placidly until the car halted. Freezing along the cable, the doors opened and the car stuttered. There was little time, and the span between the occupied car and the rapidly closing exit seemed like an impassable gulf. Stephen Hewett-Brown’s reaction, made within the span of moments, showed just how caring this man was.

“Happy New Year, he said” Manuel Coronado translated for Erude Sanchez between sobs “Happy New Year, and pushed me out of the car.” The weight came down, crushing Stephen between the car and elevator shaft. Unable to move, unable to breath, Stephen plead with Manual to take Erude away, she didn’t need to watch him die. Though resistant at first, attempting several times to pull him free, Manuel was just one man.

Ari KellenWhen reached for comment, Stephen’s family was understandably distraught. Though his actions were heroic, his family is still left with an empty seat at the dinner table, and we can only hope that the lives he saved offer some solace. Stephen Hewett-Brown chose be a hero late one night, and sadly, paid the hero’s price.