Detroit firefighter honored by Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

A Detroit firefighter who died saving three girls from drowning in the Detroit River last year was selected as the first Flight 93 Heroes award recipient.

The Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial on Friday announced the honor for Sivad Johnson, a Detroit fire department sergeant, who was off duty on Aug. 21, 2020, and walking with this daughter when he heard three girls in the Detroit River screaming for help.

Johnson immediately jumped into the water to try to save the girls. It is believed he was caught in a rip current. The three girls were rescued by others who also were helping.

A firefighter holds a program during a memorial for fallen Detroit Fire Sergeant Sivad Johnson, in front of the Detroit Public Safety Headquarters, in Detroit, August 31, 2020. Johnson died while assisting in a water rescue on Belle Isle. Johnson was honored Friday as the first Flight 93 Heroes award recipient by the Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial.

The Flight 93 Heroes Award was created by the Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial to honor the bravery shown by the 40 passengers and crew members on board Flight 93 during the 9/11 terror attacks, and to ensure their story is told to future generations, officials said.

Ten-year-old Hayden Johnson embraces her uncle, Detroit firefighter Jamal Johnson, during a memorial for Hayden's father, fallen Detroit Fire Sergeant Sivad Johnson, in front of the Detroit Public Safety Headquarters, in Detroit, August 31, 2020. Johnson died while assisting in a water rescue on Belle Isle. He was honored Friday as the first Flight 93 Heroes award recipient by the Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial.

The award identifies individuals who "act with extraordinary heroism; show courage at the risk of one's own personal safety; and who put the physical well-being of someone else above themselves."

Donna Gibson, president of the Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial, said Sivad showed the same courage and split-second decision making that put his life at risk as did those onboard Flight 93.

"With this recognition today, on the eve of the 20th commemoration of 9/11, we remind all Americans and those around the world about the actions that took place on board Flight 93 and how it forever changed the course of history," Gibson said.

jchambers@detroitnews.com