(This post has been updated.)
Bernard Kenny witnessed the attack while waiting outside the library for his wife to return a book. A man had approached Jo Cox, a member of Parliament who was meeting constituents there, and shot and stabbed her.
Kenny, a 77-year-old father, ran to help and tackled her assailant, who then stabbed Kenny in the stomach with his 10-inch knife. Cox died from her injuries, and Kenny spent several days in the hospital recovering from his.
Since the brutal attack Thursday, Kenny has been hailed as a hero. A petition, now signed by nearly 17,000 people, was started to award him Britain’s highest civilian honor, the George Cross award, given for courageous acts.
“We believe that Bernard Kenny deserves the highest honour for bravery that this country can award,” the petition reads. “The Cabinet Office must make it so as quickly as possible, so that our nation’s thoughts are on love and bravery rather than hate and fear.”
Prime Minister David Cameron, in a tweet Monday wrote, “Bernard Kenny was a hero, who risked his life trying to save Jo Cox. He deserves public recognition.”
And Cox’s sister, Kim Leadbeater, spoke of Kenny’s bravery during a public vigil on Saturday. She thanked him for trying to save her sister.
“What an amazing man,” she said, according to a video published by the Daily Mail.
Cox, a mother of two, would have turned 42 on Wednesday. And, according to the Guardian, she shared a birthday with Kenny, who turns 78 on the same day.
This wasn’t Kenny’s first heroic effort. In 1973, he was on a team of rescue workers that tried to save miners trapped underground when a mine shaft flooded.
At a ceremony for the rescue workers 30 years later, Kenny told the Yorkshire Evening Post in 2003: “We never gave up, but it was rough. You were up to your neck in water and breathing apparatus was needed because there was a high percentage of gas. But we went on with it because you ought to do. It was your duty to try and help them and it was sad when it had to be called off.”
Efforts to reach Kenny or his family at the hospital were unsuccessful, and reports are that he was discharged Monday afternoon.
But his family released this statement, according to ITV:
“Many people have shown great kindness over the last few days; this has been much appreciated by the whole family, but now we hope you will respect the fact that we need time and privacy for Bernard to recover.”
While Kenny has not spoken to the press, witnesses at the scene have provided some details about Kenny’s heroism.
Colin Frith, in an interview with the Daily Mail, described finding Kenny lying in blood on the floor of a nearby cafe. Frith, who was a hero in his own right that afternoon, bandaged Kenny’s wounds as he promised to take care of him. When he asked Kenny what happened, the man said, “I was trying to help her.”
Kenny also blew a kiss to his wife, who was standing nearby inside the cafe, Frith said, as if to reassure her that he would be fine.
“People need to acknowledge just how brave he was,” Frith told the Daily Mail. “He went up to the armed attacker and tried to stop him. He is a true hero.”
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