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January 12, 2023

Subway Samaritan: Scarsdale art teacher saves stranger’s life

Author: Molly Belmont
Scarsdale TA member John Catania was honored for his heroism by New York City Mayor Eric Adams. During the ceremony, Adams issued a special proclamation naming December 27 John Catania Day. Photo provided.

Our "It's What We Do" series offers portraits of NYSUT educators who give back to their communities and across the world.

John Catania, a second-year art teacher at Scarsdale High School and member of the Scarsdale Teachers Association was headed home on the L train just before Thanksgiving when he witnessed the violent attack of another passenger.

Catania said a man began to harass a woman and made anti-Muslim statements before grabbing her and slashing her with a sharp object.

Catania stepped in to protect the woman, and successfully fended off the assailant, who fled the train at Union Station.

“I saw someone get attacked, and it was very violent out of nowhere, and I knew someone needed to do something,” Catania said during a press conference hosted by the New York City Mayor’s Office on Dec. 27. "She looked very alone and clearly injured in the moment. So, I just tried to do my best, tried to intervene and stop any more violence."

Catania, too, sustained injuries during the attack, including a laceration to the head that required 26 stitches. He and the victim, Diamond Phillips, were both taken to Bellevue Hospital where they were treated for their injuries and released.

“John Catania is an upstanding man, said Joe Vaughn, Scarsdale TA president. “It does not surprise me that he took it upon himself to do what was right instead of what was easy.”

Catania said he is recovering well, thanks to the support of colleagues and students. “Physically, the cuts on my head and upper back from trying to stop the attack have healed. Mentally, I am also recovering well,” he said. “I have been overwhelmed with love and support from family, friends, coworkers, students, even people I've never met before.”