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Youthful Heroes Honored By Reagan

November 14, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Rhode Island anti-drug crusader, a budding Puerto Rican scientist and a Pennsylvania teen-ager who pulled her little brother from their burning home have been hailed by President Reagan as American heroes.

″I seem to remember that the argument was that if God was dead, nothing anyone could do was important enough to be called heroic,″ Reagan said during Friday’s ceremony. ″Well, I’ve never believed that either God or American heroism was dead.″

In all, six teen-agers were presented Young American Medals for acts of bravery or community service.

Among the recipients were Carla Swanson, 18, of Warwick, R.I., who organized a ″Just Say No″ club at her high school. A Department of Justice press release said her anti-drug activities provoked ″unpleasant confrontations″ with fellow students.

However, she said Friday that ″there wasn’t a problem″ with peers or friends. ″The media thinks something like this is a lot tougher than it really is,″ she said.

Also honored were Angel R. Guerra-Torres, 17, of Sabana Grande, Puerto Rico, who developed a science fair entry to show the role of broccoli as an inhibitor of a type of cancer cell; Linda Warsaw, 14, of Devore, Calif., who started a childrens’ anti-crime group; and Melinda Clark, 16, of Everett, Pa., who returned to the scene of a fire to rescue her 2-year-old brother.

Denise Shattuck, 17, of Lake Luzerne, N.Y., was honored for rescuing a friend from a car crash in which two others died; and Kimberlee Rush, 19, of Rockaway Township, N.J., was cited for pulling two children she was babysitting from a home that had filled with natural gas.

The recipients stood nervously behind Reagan in an auditorium as he recited their achievments. All either embraced or shook hands with the president when he handed them their awards, except Miss Rush, who kissed him on the cheek.

Miss Rush saved two young boys from gas fumes by climbing through the wreckage of a house struck by a sand truck that lost its brakes carrying a 20- ton load.

″Kimberly could have left the house,″ Reagan said. ″Instead, she crawled into the hole (left by the truck), through the gas fumes, and back up to the frightened children. Then she broke through a window to lead them out of the house.″

Also risking her own safety was Miss Clark, who crawled back into a window of her burning house on Feb. 11, 1985, to rescue her brother Justin.

Justin had not followed her when she initially climbed to safety onto a porch roof.

″I think he just got scared, so I went back,″ she said. She said it happened so fast that she could not recall whether she eventually carried her brother out, or whether he went out on his own.

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