Waianae-born Isaac Ho'opi'i made a difference this year in the most fundamental and personal of ways: He saved people's lives.
Rescuers voice guided
By Christine Donnelly
When terrorists slammed a hijacked jet into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, Ho'opi'i rushed first to the building and then into the carnage, wearing just his regular Pentagon police uniform, no protective mask or breathing apparatus.
As choking smoke from the burning jet fuel threatened to overcome him, Ho'opi'i struggled down pitch-black, half-wrecked corridors, yelling for anyone who could hear him to follow his voice to safety.
Once the burned and bleeding victims struggled out far enough for him to reach, he carried them out to a grassy lawn rescuers were using as a triage area, then rushed back into the corridor to help some more.
Ho'opi'i, an officer with the Pentagon's bomb-detection K-9 unit, lives in McLean, Va., with his wife, Gigi, and 9-year-old daughter, Kukana.
The family returned to Hawaii in November for a visit, during which Ho'opi'i was honored for his heroism by Gov. Ben Cayetano and got in some gigs with his Washington-based band the Aloha Boys, again putting his voice to good use.
Despite accolades since Sept. 11, Ho'opi'i insists he is no hero, that he was just doing his job.
William Wayne Sinclair knows differently.
On that day, the 54-year-old computer technician was no more than 75 feet away from where the plane hit the building and was instantly surrounded by fire, choking smoke and darkness.
Just when all hope seemed lost, Sinclair heard a voice calling out, exhorting anyone alive to come to him, to not give up. Sinclair and several co-workers followed the voice, stumbling, crawling and clawing their way through the wreckage. Sinclair, who suffered serious burns, cherished the chance to see Ho'opi'i later and properly thank him.
"He went over and above what a person can do," Sinclair, who is recovering, said then. "He was definitely a guardian angel that day and a great human being."