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From the archives: It was him or me, says one of the heroes

This story was originally published in Newsday on Dec. 9, 1993.

Michael O'Connor Jr. and Kevin Blum had just met on a Long Island Rail Road car, introduced by a mutual friend.

Two commuters, two Wall Street types, coming home to suburban Garden City.

Moments later, they were transformed into a civilian Starsky and Hutch.

They had no choice, O'Connor said yesterday. Like other passengers trapped with Tuesday's rush-hour gunman, they had tried to run. They were blocked by the closed train doors.

"I dove on top of the pile," O'Connor said, referring to the crush of people. O'Connor realized his back was in the line of fire. It was Blum who transformed them from businessmen to heroes while the gunman paused to reload.

"We turned around, and we saw him standing in the car. And then Kevin said, 'Let's get him,' " O'Connor said. At the same time, a stranger, Mark McEntee, 34, also of Garden City, joined them.

The three men pushed the gunman onto a seat, face up with his back against the wall. Blum's knees were on the gunman's chest. "I had his right arm, and the other guy had his left arm," O'Connor said. "Kevin grabbed the gun."

The gunman, whom police have identified as Jamaican-born Colin Ferguson, 35, of Brooklyn, spewed a burst of accented words. "He kept saying, 'I deserve whatever I get. God will treat me well.' He was saying all this other gibberish," O'Connor said.

It seemed an eternity before an off-duty Long Island Rail Road police officer, waiting at the station for his wife, boarded to help. Together, O'Connor and the officer, Andrew Roderick, 26, handcuffed the gunman. The gunman's wrists were so thick, O'Connor said, he could barely make the handcuffs fit.

O'Connor does not feel heroic. It was either the gunman or him, he said. "You had no choice. We were at the end of the pile, so it's either us or . . . like I said, the doors were closed and we were right next to him."

But everyone else is calling the men modern-day heroes.

"To this moment, I don't think he realizes how close he came to being a victim or how brave he was," said O'Connor's mother, Patty.

Blum, a 42-year-old Wall Street bond trader, went to a friend's to escape the press yesterday. He wanted to sleep, said his wife, Susanne.

As Susanne pulled into her driveway in a black Volvo stationwagon yesterday, she was swarmed by reporters and camera people. She held her son, 3-year-old Kevin Jr., in her arms as she said the family had gone to church yesterday morning because it was a Catholic holy day and because they had a lot to be thankful for.

McEntee's wife, Aileen, came to the door of her Garden City home but said her husband didn't want to comment. "We're very proud of him," she said. She would not say what her husband does for a living, but she did say that he is 34, and that they have three children, all under age 7.

O'Connor, 31, works with securities for Goldman Sachs in Manhattan. He went to the Blum house yesterday to see Blum, but nobody answered the door.

He said that after he safely got off the 5:33 Tuesday, he called his mother. "My breathing was heavy. It was cold. My legs were shaking, stuff like that. You sit there and see a poor woman lying down with a bullet in her neck. It's not something you'd expect in a regular day."

O'Connor slept at his mother's house in Garden City Tuesday night. He didn't eat dinner because his stomach was queasy. Although he went to bed at 11:30 p.m., he didn't fall asleep until 4 a.m. Events kept running through his mind, he said. Blum was amazing, O'Connor emphasized. He said that after they left the train, he saw Blum in the street directing emergency traffic.

Others agree.

"I don't even know the guy," said Greg Burke, whose father lives next door to Blum. "God bless him, though."

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