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Washington • The standing ovation and the fancy certificate made Salli Hislop blush. After all, she says, she just did what anyone would do and besides, someone else should get credit.
"The dog was really the hero," Hislop said.
The 32-year letter carrier had just started her route one day last August when a small Yorkshire came yapping at her vehicle's door and wouldn't leave. Hislop exited the vehicle, only to discover that the dog was seeking help for his owner, an elderly male who was suffering a heart attack nearby.
Hislop ran to help, taking the phone from the man's wife and calmly starting chest compressions at the behest of a 911 operator. The Sandy woman's actions, which allowed paramedics to revive the man, earned her an award from the National Association of Letter Carriers as its 2010 Western Region Hero and a banquet in Washington for her and six other honorees.
Hislop shuns the hero title and still thinks the dog was the savior but she says that letter carriers, while a ubiquitous presence in the community, are also an amazing force for good, even if many people don't realize it.
On daily routes, Hislop says carriers will often turn off a forgotten hose, close a door absentmindedly left ajar or escort children out of the street to safety.
"We do these things every day that help people out," she says. "They're our customers."
Postmaster General Jack Potter heralded Hislop and her fellow workers for doing more than just "delivering the mail."
Included in the award ceremony was a carrier from Ohio who rescued a man from a house fire, put out the blaze and later the same day aided a 12-year-old boy who had crashed his bicycle; a carrier from Arkansas who saved three people after a fiery head-on crash; and a retired Kansas mailman who helped feed 35,000 families across the state through a food sharing program.
"What's really important about them all: they're regular people," Potter said. "These aren't people who stand up, put Superman on their chest and tell everyone about what they did they're regular people… You really are heroes."
Hislop's daughter, Monique Epperson, joined her mom for the trip to Washington to accept the award and was in awe of her mom's accomplishment.
"She's somebody you have to look up to," Epperson said. "She's a role model."