Decked out in his finest suit, "Bar-B-Q Master" Bill Burley was honored yesterday for his finest hour -- the afternoon two weeks ago when he saved a 30-year-old Guilford woman who was attacked in her home.
Mr. Burley, along with two of the woman's neighbors, modestly accepted letters of commendation from county government and otherawards from the Howard County Police Department and the Safety First Club of Maryland.
"My mother and father raised me to be a man," Mr. Burley, 60, said. "I just did what I should do. The police can't do it all."
With his mother, Catherine, and his wife, Edna, looking on, the owner of the roadside barbecue beef stand shook hands and hugged Wanda McDonald and Valerie Moore, two others police credit with lending a hand to the victim's rescue Aug. 31.
"You've demonstrated extraordinary courage," County Executive Charles I. Ecker said to Mr. Burley. "You've brought credit to yourself, to your family, your neighbors and to Howard County."
Police Sgt. Carl Layman recognized "the valiant efforts" of the honorees before Capt. Steve Drummond presented citizens awards to each of them.
It was Mr. Burley who saw Thurman A. Moore, the man charged with attempted rape in the attack, as he begged rides from several women in the Guilford Elementary School parking lot Aug. 31.
Within minutes, Mr. Moore, who has a 30-year history of sexual assaults, was at the door of a townhouse less than a block from Mr. Burley's stand.
Police say the man, who had been released from the Patuxent Institution on July 14 after serving 19 years for raping and kidnapping an 11-year-old Columbia girl, is accused of forcing his way into the home and sexually assaulting the woman.
When neighbors arrived at the woman's door, they heard screams. Ms. Moore (no relation to Thurman Moore) and Robin Ambush, a cook at the barbecue stand, gave authorities directions to the scene. Meanwhile, Mr. Burley armed himself with a 4-foot stick and ordered the attacker outside onto the pavement, where he was held face-down until police arrived. Mr. Moore, who is in custody in Baltimore, is scheduled to go before a Howard County grand jury tomorrow.
As he received each award, Mr. Burley thanked the presenters briefly, appearing uncomfortable in the spotlight of the 13-minute ceremony.
In his navy blue pin-striped suit and black wingtip shoes, Mr. Burley posed for pictures outside the George Howard Building in Ellicott City.
"He did a very good thing, saving someone's life," Mr. Burley's mother said. "I tried to raise him right."
Edna Burley said she wasn't surprised by her husband's bravery.
"Knowing Bill, he's just the type who would do something like that," she said. "He just did what came natural."
In a short time, Mr. Burley was behind the wheel of his sister's car, heading back to the low-key life he prefers at Burley's Bar-B-Q in the 7300 block of Oakland Mills Road.
After quickly changing into a baseball cap, denim apron and grease-stained work gloves, the cook was pouring charcoal into a large grill.
Although he'd like things to return to normal, Mr. Burley said the event that put him in the limelight makes him ponder the vulnerability of ordinary citizens.
"I wake up early in the morning thinking about it," he said. "How easy it is to be attacked."
A few days after the incident, the victim's husband visited Mr. Burley and thanked him.
"He put his face to mine and he broke down a little," Mr. Burley said. "He said his wife is doing OK physically and mentally, and that she'd be by when she's better."
Mr. Burley, whose heroics have been highlighted on television news programs in Maryland and Washington, has even been pursued by national television shows such as "America's Most Wanted" and "The Montel Williams Show."
The media attention has boosted business a little, he said, but Mr. Burley would prefer to put the event behind him.