When you think of a hero, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For North Bellmore resident AJ Smart, it’s someone in the military.
“I think of someone who defends our country as a hero,” Smart said. “Their everyday is fighting for us to live the way that we live.”
The 32-year-old Smart, who calls himself modest, probably did not realize that he too would one day be called a hero. On Sept. 19, 2011 when he was driving down his block at around 8 a.m., his neighbors’ child ran out of his house screaming for help, chasing after four men.
Smart’s instincts took over, not just as a volunteer firefighter, but as a neighbor. Those four men jumped into a white sedan, the getaway vehicle, and sped away.
“I was just thinking that, if I was running out of my house screaming for help and someone was driving by, I would hope they would do the same thing for me and my family,” Smart said.
Smart followed in pursuit of the vehicle and dialed 911, giving emergency responders a play-by-play of what he had just witnessed.
“I was on the phone following them the whole time, letting them know where we were and how many people were in the car and what kind of car it was,” Smart said. “Then the police pulled up, I told them they made a left and the police followed them.”
Smart hadn’t known what was about to ensue, but the police apprehended the suspects after a brief altercation that included shots fired. Smart also didn’t realize what he had just helped to solve. These four men, allegedly, broke into his neighbors’ home, threatened them at gun and knife point, tied them up, and stole their cash, jewelry and other valuables.
Six people were taken to the hospital after the break-in, but luckily, no one was seriously injured. Smart, following his instincts, helped to apprehend the suspects. For this reason, Smart will be honored by the Islanders and TD Bank as “Hometown Hero” on Jan. 10.
“The Hometown Hero program is something that we, TD Bank, initiated with the Islanders quite a few years ago,” said Eric Fishon, TD Bank’s Vice President of Suburban New York Marketing. “It gives us the opportunity to exemplify people in the community for some of the great work that they do. They are our hometown heroes, regular people doing really great things.”
This type of heroism transcends everyday life. Nothing in sports is comparable. But as Long Island’s team, honoring a community hero from our own backyard is the least anyone could do to say thank you.
“I’m really glad that we can have a hometown hero from that area,” Fishon said. “We think it’s really great that someone who’s a volunteer fireman in his community, who is already a hometown hero in his everyday life with the way that he gives back to the community, has stepped it up even more to give back.”
As for being recognized by the Islanders and TD Bank on Jan. 10, Smart said, “It’s an honor. It’s really nice.”
The Islanders, TD Bank and all of Long Island, say, “thank you.”
“We’re glad on behalf of TD Bank that we can honor people like AJ in our community,” Fishon said.