“We live in a heroic age.”
Those are the first words Andrew Carnegie wrote in the original deed that started the Carnegie Hero Fund. In its 109 years of existence the fund has awarded almost 10,000 medals to recipients in the U.S and Canada, recipients who have displayed acts of civilian heroism.
The Director of External Affairs for the Carnegie Hero Fund, Doug Chambers, explained to the crowd at the concert what an act of heroism is.
“Now when I talk about heroism I need to put this in perspective, we define heroism as someone who risks his or her life to an extraordinary degree saving or attempting to save the life of another person. The rescue does not have to be successful as it was not in this case tonight.”
This Thursday night during the University of Florida Symphonic band concert, a former UF student’s parents were awarded a unique bronze medal in honor of their son Michael Pirie. Michael was a freshman at UF studying marketing and was also a member of the UF Marching Band drumline. Michael’s father, Brent Pirie, said the medal is another way his son’s memory lives on.
“Today’s concert is just another proud moment for me as a dad just to have Michael recognized, his legacy continued how he has touched so many lives. This would have been his senior year here at UF.”
Pirie was not present the day his son passed away, but he can recount the day in detail as if he had been.
“On that day, it was in February in North Georgia and many of the group from UF they go out on excursions just as team building. During this one excursion, Grant Lockenbach, who Michael attempted to save, they were exploring part of the cave while others were just walking the caves and during that season there was a large waterfall and waterfall and one of the bags fell over 125 ft.”
Pirie continues to say how Michael’s friend Grant attempted to scale down the waterfall and retrieve the fallen bag. Grant never came back up. It was at this point that Michael performed the greatest act of heroism and friendship a human being can make, he scaled down the waterfall to find his friend and ultimately lost his life trying to save him.
Michael’s grandfather, Bob Vanderlugt, said although he misses Michael very much he imagines him in a better place doing what he loved most.
“We miss him obviously, you would miss somebody in your family that died but we don’t fret about what’s happened to him because we know he’s in a place now where he’s probably playing music we’ve never even heard of.”
The Carnegie Hero Fund medal comes with a stipend, all of which has been added to the UF Marching Band drumline scholarship that was created in Michael’s honor.
After awarding the medal to family members, the UF Symphonic Band dedicated their last number “Angels in the Architecture” to Michael Pirie’s outstanding act of heroism.