Man honored for saving another’s life

John Catana’s car was on fire, about to explode, and he thought he was going to die because he couldn’t get out.

His vehicle, a 2008 Nissan Sentra, had been knocked off the road into gas pumps of a Chevron station at the corner of Clairmont and Briarcliff roads. It erupted into flames, along with two gas pumps, and the car’s air bag deployed, trapping Catana, 63, a respiratory therapist at the Veterans Administration Medical Center.

“I thought it was the end,” Catana says. “But then this man comes up and pulls me out. He could have been killed, too. He is my hero.”

His hero is Edgar Evans, 57, a night watchman who recently had been treated in an emergency room for rheumatoid arthritis and can’t fathom how he had the strength to help Catana out of the car.

“I couldn’t keep myself from doing what I did,” Evans said. “I guess I just didn’t think about how dangerous it was. I just reacted.”

Evans recently was cited as a hero by the Atlanta chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution at a ceremony in the Druid Hills area.

“A hero doesn’t plan on being a hero,” said Wood Hughes, president of the Atlanta chapter. “A hero just reacts to a dangerous situation without thought to his personal welfare. By any measure, Mr. Evans has met the burden to be admired and respected.”

Evans was awarded a Medal of Heroism, which “recognizes outstanding bravery and self-sacrifice in the face of imminent danger.”

The citation reads: “For his selfless acts of bravery in the face of personal injury, Mr. Eddie Evans is hereby recognized with the Sons of the American Revolution’s Heroism Medal.”

Evans was inside the gas station getting a cup of coffee when the accident occurred. First he thought about running to his truck to try to push the burning car away from the pumps, but decided that would take too much time.

He says he figured “the man in the car was definitely going to blow up” but “in a situation like that, you don’t have time to be afraid. I worked in a coal mine for seven years, and you don’t know from one minute to the next what’s going to jump up. So I guess I was back in that mode.”

He said Catana was yelling for help, and that a dozen or so people were nearby.

“I heard a few people say, ‘I’m not going in there,’ ” Evans said. “But I remember thinking, ‘We ain’t got time to be fooling around with this.’ ”

Kristina Lunk, Evans’ daughter, thinks he may have acted as he did because, as a child, a baby sister died in a fire and he couldn’t get to the crib because of flames.

“This is just the way he is,” she says. “If he has a chance to help somebody, he does. What he did was amazing. It was awesome. I’m more than proud to be his daughter. I’m honored.”

Evans says he doesn’t see what he did as that much of a big deal, though he concedes in retrospect he could have died.

“I didn’t do this for recognition or any awards or medals,” he said. “I did it ’cause the guy needed help. I just did what I had to do.”

The two men plan to get together soon to talk about the incident, giving Catana, who lives in Lawrenceville, a chance to “show my gratitude for saving my life.”

Suggest a Hometown Hero

Every other Wednesday, Bill Hendrick shines a spotlight on extraordinary and selfless acts by our friends and neighbors. To suggest someone for this feature, email Bill Hendrick.