Dave Conley's arms and legs - as well as his sleeping patterns - are permanently scarred by the electricity that coursed through his body after he heroicallyleaped to rescue three others.
Conley and eight other Utahns were honored for heroism on George Washington'sbirthday by the Utah Chapter of the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. The heroes, acknowledged by Gov. Norm Bangerter, were further praised for their humble refusals to accept the accolade of "hero."Five months after the incident, Conley has had skin grafts on two of his fingers. His left thumb is still stiff and sensitive, making it difficult to perform mundane tasks, such as buttoning his shirt or tying his shoes. The deep wounds on his right leg below his knee and the burns on his arms are still healing.
"If I was to walk out of a building today and there was a dog being electrocuted, you would have to hold me back," Conley said in an interview before the awards program.
"After this tragic thing happened, I got some attention and people were saying `Hero this,' and `Hero that,' " he said. "And I knew in my heart that I wasn't a hero. I knew I didn't do anything great; that's just the way I am."
On a sultry afternoon last August, Conley, 45, looked out the window of his Provo office and saw a cluster of people watching three men who were sprawled on the ground, convulsing and unconscious. Two men had been installing a metal sign when their truck hit a power line.
Conley was advised not to touch anything to avoid injury, but in response, he bent down and pulled the two workers to safety. Electrical volts continued to course through the body of Steven Blake, 21, another passer-by who had jumped to help and was knocked unconscious from the current. When Conley attempted to move Blake, he was overpowered by pain that knocked him to the ground.
Blake died in the rescue attempt.
Conley, a former Deseret News photographer, said he thinks that true heroism is contained in the decisions that precede the act, such as when a youth determines he will not abuse drugs or other substances.
"He was the hero when he made that decision that he was going to live his life in such a way," Conley said. "It (heroism) came in the private victory. It came in the private moment when you decide this is the way you are going to live your life." Conley credits his father for instilling in him a deep respect for human life.
Other Utah heroes honored at the Wednesday luncheon:
- Kerry and Patti Chlarson, termed heroes in love. Charlson, a commissioned lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, was seriously disfigured in an 1986 automobile accident, in which his body was doused with gasoline that instantly ignited. He was not supposed to live. But the love of his wife and his own will to survive pulled him through. Charlson, now a student at the University of Utah Law School, shrugged off the magnitude of his injuries the first time he saw a mirror. "Oh, well. I was never one to worry a whole lot about how I looked anyway."
- Lowell L. Bennion, for his legendary community service. Bennion was noted for his Teton Valley Boys Ranch, where through hard work he has helped mold the character of 1,800 young men. Bennion was the founder of the LDS Church's University of Utah Institute of Religion, a former associate dean of students at the U., and director of the Salt Lake area Community Services Council.
- G. Alan Jacobsen, a former FBI agent, honored for duty to his country. Jacobsen was stabbed by kidnappers in December 1987 while saving the life of the son of Utahns Jon and Karen Huntsman.
- Suzanne and David Stott, for their work in adopting special-needs children. The Stotts have adopted seven minority or special-needs children, and taken in 11 foster children as well. They helped in the founding KUTV's "Wednesday Child" program, and answered a hot line helping to coordinate adoptions. In addition, they have supported many Cambodian refugees.
- Shane Wall, 23, who last June followed a premonition and found himself at Utah Lake in time to rescue three children. His heroism is dramatic, for despite making three rescue missions into the water, Wall, an avid fisherman, can't swim.
- Steven Blake, 21, who was electrocuted while attempting to rescue the workers along with Conley. Blake, a BYU student, was driving by when he happened upon the incident. His parents, Reed and Katie Blake, accepted the award in his honor.
Also honored at the luncheon were Hill Air Force Base personnel, Master Sgt. Vasco M. Campos, Master Sgt. Ronald L. Ruff, Jr., Airman David D. Pasqualini and 22 area high school students who will attend a youth conference at Valley Forge.