BATAVIA, NY - Everybody says Gus Willis is a hero.
Except for, well, Gus Willis.
"I'm not a hero," Willis said. "A hero's somebody who goes around and saves everybody."
Maybe there's varying definitions. One thing is for sure: Willis saved one person's life on Saturday morning when he rescued a man who fell into Tonawanda Creek in Batavia. The man, whom police have not yet identified, was a mere 200 yards from a dam Lt. Robert Fix calls the "death machine." The water was cold. The current was strong; the water levels treacherous.
He was going to die, if not for Bartz's quick thinking and Willis' pit stop.
"Definitely a hero," Fix said.
And then he left. Officer Marc Lawrence estimated that for eight hours on Saturday, the Batavia Police Department had no clue who Willis was. Fix also said his department could not identify him for several hours. After all, Willis had more important things to do than wait around to be hero-worshipped.
He had to get his son to his little-league baseball game.
"I saved one person," Willis said. "I'm no hero."
But his actions speak differently. Willis said he saw the man from his car, pulled over, noticed he was underwater and then ripped his clothes on to jump into the creek.
"If I didn't get help," Bartz said, "he wouldn't have made it. He couldn't swim."
The police say they're just happy to know who the hero is.
"We can put a name to the face now, and we can thank him," Lawrence said, "for saving people's lives."