, Salem, MA

Local News

April 1, 2011

'I just reacted'

Amputee, 55, describes how he took down alleged robber


"On a case like this, where it's a fleeing felon, you really don't want people to corner a person like that because you don't know what they are capable of doing," he said. "You are lucky it worked out the way it did. ... If it was a real gun, we would be dealing with two deaths right now."

Nonetheless, the chief plans to bring Cornell, Andrade, and responding officers Adam Maccini and Robert Currier to the next selectmen's meeting so he can give the civilians citations of bravery and the officers letters of commendation.

Cornell, who has lived in Middleton since 1990, is a regular at the convenience store at 323 N. Main St. (Route 114), which is a short walk from his Piedmont Street home.

He grew up in Malden and lost his leg in 1968 at age 12 while trying to jump on a freight train, disobeying the warning of his mother after he'd attempted the stunt a few days before.

"I saw the train going by again, and I had a race with a bunch of friends, and I guess I didn't run alongside of the train, I just ran straight at it."

Cornell missed the train, and it ran over his leg.

He remembers pulling his leg off the railroad tracks and backing away. Someone in a nearby lumberyard heard his screams.

"They just kept on asking my name, address, telephone number, parents; I was in a state of shock at that point."

Cornell recalls Red Sox great Carl Yastrzemski visiting him in the hospital. Cornell mistook Yaz for Tony Conigliaro, another popular Sox player from the Impossible Dream season.

"At 12, I still had no fear and wouldn't believe in what the doctors told me — I couldn't ride a bike, and I couldn't play sports. I don't accept 'no' that easily."

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