The California firefighter had himself been shot while doing CPR on a wounded victim in Las Vegas when he could have just sought cover.
But the courage he later talked about was that of the police officers he saw charging directly towards the gunfire.
“He said it was one of the most amazing thing he ever saw,” Mike Brown, an off-duty Las Vegas doctor and former New York City firefighter, told The Daily Beast.
Brown now lives in Las Vegas and he was at a local bar when he received a frantic phone call from his cousin Kelly Presten McCurdy who had come from California with her sister, Jessi Presten, for the big country-music festival. Jessi had been shot, but Kelly’s husband had managed to carry her back to their room at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. The wound was not life threatening, and the cousin's husband — a Los Angeles fire captain and the father of young children — had then gone back out to see if he could find some friends.
In the meantime, the wound was oozing and Jessi was in considerable pain. Kelly now told Brown over the phone that she had been calling the front desk with no immediate result.
“I said, ‘Just call 911 saying you got a shooting victim who's continuing to bleed,’” Brown recalled.
Brown delivered what emergency advice he could over the phone. He would have rushed to them himself, but the area was in lockdown. The most he could do was drive to the perimeter and pick up three of his cousins’ friends, two of them firefighters from Glendale, California.
Brown collected them and after they climbed into the back seat he saw that one of the firefighters, Steve Keyes, was bleeding.
“He said, 'Yeah, I got shot,'" Brown recalled. “He lifts his shirt up. He was shot in the chest. He said, ‘I’ll be fine.’ I said, ‘Wait a minute, you ain't John Wayne.”’
Brown examined the firefighter and saw that he had a graze wound extending from his chest to his stomach. Brown learned that if Keyes was not John Wayne, he and his fellow firefighter were exactly like firefighters everywhere.
“He was doing CPR when he got shot,” Brown reported.
Brown took Keys and the two others to his home. Brown knew them from the anniversaries of 9/11, when they had joined him and his cousins in New York. Brown is the brother of FDNY Captain Patrick Brown, one of the most decorated firefighters in the department’s history. Patrick Brown was killed as he ascended past the 35th floor of the North Tower.
The firefighters from Glendale had now shown similar courage as a madman with a golf bag full of assault rifles rained death down from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and people right next to them were shot.
“These guys are all firemen,” Mike Brown observed. “They’re taking care of the people instead of just taking off.”
To them, they were only doing what firefighters do. They were amazed by the bravery of the police officers who had charged toward the gunfire. The cops were no less courageous for responding exactly like cops everywhere, for doing what cops do.
In the morning, authorities were saying that at least one police officer was among the 58 dead.
From his home, Brown reported that Keys and the others had left.
“Everyone is okay and trying to get home,” Brown said.
Jessi was at Sunrise Hospital emergency room, where Brown himself used to work before taking a job at a nearby Air Force base.
Sixteen years ago, Mike Brown the doctor had been working to save a patient in the Sunrise Hospital ER even as he watched the live coverage of the burning Twin Towers, knowing that his firefighter brother was inside, climbing up into direst danger.
As Brown kept trying to save a life he watched the North Tower and then the South Tower collapse, killing his brother, along with 342 other members of FDNY, 23 members of the NYPD and 37 members of the Port Authority Police Department.
Before then and since then, firefighters and cops have shown similar courage on countless occasions. The most recent instance in Las Vegas, where they were joined by numerous civilians who demonstrated equal selflessness.
These latest heroes who are brave by profession give us all the more reason in the days to come to do whatever we can to save our saviors from having to demonstrate their courage yet again.