Nineteen years after the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the Los Angeles Police Department Tuesday honored a man who helped rescue five people, including a police officer trapped in his apartment, after the temblor.
Michael Kubeisy, 53, received a certificate of appreciation during the Police Commission meeting to honor his bravery in the immediate aftermath of the quake, which struck at 4:31 a.m. Jan. 17, 1994, killing nearly 60 people, injuring thousands and causing around $20 billion in damage.
"Your bravery and quick thinking on that historic day saved several lives and you are to be commended for this unbelievable act of humanity and courage," Commission President Andrea Sheridan Ordin said. "You are and will always be considered a hero by the city of Los Angeles. On behalf of the men and women of the Los Angeles Police Department, we truly thank you."
Kubeisy, now a still photographer for the CBS television show "NCIS," rushed to help neighbors in his approximately 150-unit, three-story Northridge Meadows apartment building, the first floor of which partially collapsed.
After bridging a nearly three-foot crevice that opened up in his own apartment, Kubeisy first assisted an elderly neighbor down a chain ladder, then moved to the door of LAPD officer Joseph Jordan and his wife, he told City News Service. The door was sealed shut, but Kubeisy could hear Jordan and his wife were OK.
He eventually pried the door open, and he blew out a candle the couple was burning -- a major hazard given a gas leak caused by the quake. Kubeisy and Jordan would go on to help other neighbors.
"And that was the last time I saw him," Kubeisy said.
Jordan died of a heart attack in 1996, according to the LAPD. He was honored in the days after the quake by then-President Bill Clinton, but "the LAPD has never properly thanked Mike for rescuing Officer Jordan," according to the department.
Kubeisy shrugged off the honor.
"The only reason I'm agreeing to go through with this -- it's not for me -- I want my teenage boys to see firsthand that when you deny yourself for the betterment of someone else, even 19 years later, you get the 'Atta boy' sometimes," he said.
One of the five people Kubeisy rescued that day was neighbor Patricia Silden, who he later married. Their two sons accompanied Kubeisy to the ceremony.
"He's a hero," son Garret Kubeisy told CBS2. "It doesn't matter what you do, as long as you save people it's the right thing to do."