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Heroic straphanger honored by Brooklyn Diocese

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Subway hero Sean Conaboy, center, receives a medal from Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, right. On the left is Paterson, NJ Bishop Kevin Sweeney, Conaboy's former pastor.
Photo by Ben Brachfeld

The Bishop of Brooklyn on Tuesday honored a heroic straphanger who saved a woman from being stabbed on a subway platform back in May.

Sean Conaboy, 52, a Flatbush native who has lived in Sunset Park for 16 years, was hailed as a hero and given a medal by Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio in a ceremony at the headquarters of the Brooklyn Diocese in Windsor Terrace.

“You gave help to someone in trouble, did not concern about your own safety,” DiMarzio told Conaboy, who said he had never met Bishop DiMarzio, or any other bishop, before. “We really tip our hat to you and thank you.”

Conaboy poses with his family, Bishop DiMarzio, and Bishop Sweeney.Photo by Ben Brachfeld

Conaboy, a freelance cameraman for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, was waiting for a Brooklyn-bound F train at the Union Square stop at night on May 19 — the F train was rerouted along Broadway that night, he said — when a man, identified as 22-year-old Joshua Nazario, began repeatedly stabbing 54-year-old Kelli Daley nearby on the platform.

Surveillance video showed Conaboy hastily springing into action, tackling and, with some assistance from other straphangers, disarming the assailant at great risk to his own safety before cops could arrive, despite being exhausted from a 12-hour workday.

“Some angel or saint had been watching over me for sure,” Conaboy told reporters. “Because I really, at one point or another, thought that my whole back is exposed, I have no ability to see anything but tunnel vision, and I could be grievously injured myself. I was fortunate that I wasn’t.”

Cops charged Nazario, of the Bronx, with felony assault and criminal possession of a weapon. Daley was taken to Bellevue Hospital, and survived her injuries. Conaboy said that Daley, who works in politics, has now returned to her job and is in recovery from the incident, and that they have spoken on a number of occasions since that fateful day.

“Kelli and I have struck up a bit of a friendship through this, which is, I guess, a blessing,” Conaboy said. “And I hope it continues. She’s dealing with it the best she can.”

The medal Conaboy received from Bishop DiMarzio.Photo by Ben Brachfeld

Conaboy is a devout Catholic, and has been attending St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Sunset Park since 2006, he said. His former pastor at St. Michael’s, Kevin Sweeney, now the Bishop of Paterson, New Jersey, said that he wasn’t surprised to learn Conaboy had stopped the stabber, having known him as a person of deep faith.

“I wasn’t surprised, because he was someone I knew was a person of faith, who lived his faith day-by-day in his daily life,” Sweeney said. “So when that moment came for him to need to respond…he stepped into that battle, and saved someone who was being attacked.”

Conaboy said that he saw the incident from the very beginning and quickly processed what was occurring, springing into action without overthinking it. He said that he was able to be on alert and take action the way he did because he wasn’t looking at his phone or listening to music, and said people should stay alert to potential dangers on the subway.

“If there’s any lesson I can teach people, it’s stay alert,” Conaboy said. “It’s not the Roosevelt Field shopping mall, it’s the subway, and it’s dangerous…it’s gotten markedly dangerous. Kelli was an innocent victim.”

He also wanted people to understand that while he may have been a hero in the situation, there was still a victim.

“As honored as I am to be here, there is a victim in all of this and it isn’t me,” Conaboy said. “Kelli is somebody who will have to find her way forward in her life. To heal, emotionally if not physically. It is my sincere hope that she does and I think she deserves our prayers.”

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