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Houlton Woman Honored for her Heroism 66 years ago 

Sixty-six years ago, smoke filled the sky in South Portland. “There were no sirens. There was no warning,” which is what John Kierstead says referring to the Long Creek Air Tragedy of 1944. An army bomber pilot lost an engine and spiralled down into a small community known as the Westbrook Trailer Camp. On Wednesday, the oldest survivor of the Long Creek Air Tragedy was honored in Augusta. Her name is Vina Sawyer. She was seventeen and Vina Hannan in 1944. July 11th changed her life forever.Suffering severe burns herself, Sawyer managed to get the two young children she was caring for out of the fire. “I was knocked down under the floor so I got up, and that little Jimmy was hollering and crying, and I went to pick him up. Nancy was standing on the step, and her dress was on fire, and she was crying so I stood Jimmy down, ripped the dress off and put her across this arm and carried her,” recalls Sawyer.Despite Sawyer’s heroic effort Jimmy and Nancy died later at a hospital.”The first responders were the people that lived there. They didn’t have anything like we do now,” says John Kierstead. Kierstead spearheaded an effort to erect a monument in South Portland this year that memorializes the victims of that crash. Seventeen people on the ground died. The pilot and flight engineer perished as well. “The first responders were themselves, people like Vina, who were horrifically burned themselves,” says Kierstead.Long Creek is a small stream that was nearby and why the disaster is know as the Long Creek Air Tragedy.In recognition of Sawyer’s actions, Governor John E. Baldacci has proclaimed December 29th as Vina Hannan Sawyer day in Maine. “You’re actions were heroic,” Gov. Baldacci told Sawyer as they met in Augusta Wednesday.Sawyer, now 85 years old, lives in Houlton. She still bears the scars on her body from that horrific day. A day she’ll never forget along with the people she tried so hard to save.