IRVING, Texas - Al Larsen, a technical specialist at Verizon's main telephone operations campus here, was recognized posthumously today by the company with the prestigious Verizon Heroes Award. Larsen, 31, was credited for saving several lives when floodwaters swept over I-35 about 80 miles north of Wichita, Kan., in late August. Larsen and five others died in the flooding.
To commemorate Larsen's unselfish act of bravery and heroism, Verizon presented his widow, Elizabeth-Anne Larsen, with a check for $10,000 and a gold medallion during a private ceremony with Larsen's former co-workers.
On August 30, Larsen -- a Fort Worth resident and a native of Spencer, Iowa, who joined Verizon in 2000 -- was driving north on I-35 to visit relatives in Iowa when his sports utility vehicle stalled out due to rising floodwaters that surged over the highway. According to highway patrol officials and eyewitnesses, Larsen waded into the deepest waters and began knocking on the windows of other stalled vehicles, encouraging the occupants to flee with him to higher ground.
Eyewitnesses said Larsen, an athletic, strapping 6-footer, saved the lives of several people including two young women and an elderly woman whom he carried on his back to safety. As the floodwaters rose, Larsen continued wading from car door to car door, pleading with more occupants to leave their vehicles. During his rescue attempts, a large surge of water swept him and others away.
Weather officials later reported that the rainfall in the region that day was so heavy that a storm of that magnitude occurs, on average, only once every 100 years.
The gold Verizon Heroes Award, the company's highest honor for heroism, is awarded to a Verizon employee who saves a life in circumstances where there is an extremely high risk of personal safety to the employee. Other Verizon Heroes Awards include the silver and bronze medals, the citation of meritorious service and a certificate of recognition. The three other Verizon employees to receive the gold medal were killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"Al will be remembered dearly by all those fortunate enough to know and work with him," said Jud Williams, Larsen's supervisor, on behalf of Larsen's co-workers. "Not only was he gifted and hardworking, but he was unfailingly cheerful. Al's charisma made him friends not only at work and school, but everywhere he went in his travels. His ambition and drive in both his personal and professional life were beyond compare. He sought out adventure and challenge, from diving into the depths to climbing the highest mountains, and he never ceased trying to enrich himself through education and training."
The awards replaced the longstanding Morris LaCroix Award and Theodore N. Vail Medal programs, respectively. These two programs were established in memory of a former executive from GTE Corp., a Verizon predecessor company, and an early president of the former Bell System.
A Fortune 10 company, Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services, with approximately $67 billion in revenues. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with more than 139 million access line equivalents and 36 million Verizon Wireless customers. Verizon is the third largest long-distance carrier for U.S. consumers, with nearly 16 million long-distance lines. The company is also the largest directory publisher in the world, as measured by directory titles and circulation. Verizon's international presence includes wireline and wireless communications operations and investments, primarily in the Americas and Europe. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.