Three years ago, in a quiet neighborhood in Mount Pleasant Township, two men risked their lives and one woman lost hers protecting others from a gunman.
Today, the Downtown-based Carnegie Hero Fund Commission recognized those three Westmoreland County residents -- Mark Garsteck, John Swartz and the late Stacey Lynn Feiling -- by awarding them the Carnegie Medal, which honors people in the United States or Canada who have risked their lives to save the lives of others.
Nineteen other people were also named as recipients of the medals and a $5,000 award by the commission, which dates to 1904.
Reached by telephone, Mr. Garsteck, a 58-year-old salesman, said he was surprised and honored to receive the award, but as he recounted the details of the incident in which he intervened, he was humble.
"I don't really think about it much. It just happened really quickly. I think anybody who might have seen it might have done the same thing," he said.
On the evening of June 1, 2010, Mr. Garsteck was in his home when he heard gunfire and screaming. He went outside and saw that his neighbor, Raymond Piper, Sr., had shot his wife and teenage daughter. Mr. Garsteck went into the yard to speak to his neighbor, to calm him down, while the Piper family fled to a neighbor's house for safety.
Another neighbor, Mr. Swartz, drove his truck toward Piper, who fired his gun at him, hitting the vehicle. Mr. Garsteck, now worried that Piper would fire at him, hid behind another car. He escaped back into his house to get a pistol he had purchased years earlier, just in case.
He returned to the yard and saw two young boys, who had been staying with Piper's family, in the yard, vulnerable. He heard more shots ring out as he hurried toward the boys.
"It was kind of just a gut reaction," he said.
He then walked through the Piper and the Swartz residences, looking for anyone who was hurt and finding no one. He went outside and saw a car stopped on Route 981. Inside was Feiling, a 42-year-old nurse who had stopped to help Piper's wife when she saw her, wounded, running to the road.
Piper had shot Feiling in the head, killing her, and as Mr. Garsteck stood next to her body, Piper fired a shot at him, too. He fired back, using Feiling's car as protection. He retreated to a neighbor's house, meeting Mr. Swartz, as he and Piper continued to exchange gunfire.
Piper eventually went into his home and set it on fire. State police arrived and arrested him, and in 2011 Piper pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and multiple counts of attempted homicide. He was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.
It's hard, but important, for Mr. Garsteck to talk about what happened nearly three years ago in his usually quiet neighborhood. "I think just repeating a story like this is hopefully an inspiration to anybody, that it's just not all bad people out there."