Royal Humane Society
Instituted 1774 Registered Charity Number 231469
recognising the bravery of people
Testimonial on Vellum
Boxing Day 2003 was a day that changed Ruth Millington's life.
The 34-year old London lawyer had just arrived in Iran at the start of her holiday. She and a friend were staying in Akbar's Guest House, in the ancient south-eastern city of Bam.
They had been in bed for only a few hours when a massive earthquake struck at about 5.30 a.m.
Ruth's travelling companion, Michael Runkel from Germany, takes up the story:
'I shouted to Ruth, 'We must get out of here,' and grabbed her hand to help her up. The roof had collapsed and I couldn't open the door because it was blocked by rubble.'
Quickly reaching for clothes and shoes, Ruth and Michael forced their way out of the hotel. Once outside, they were confronted by a scene of utter devastation.
'Nothing was standing,' says Michael, 'everything was completely collapsed.'
There was a deafening silence for about 30 seconds and then the sound of women wailing and people shouting for help.
Michael and Ruth immediately started digging to free the injured, using their bare hands and a single shovel that they found nearby.
Despite the shock they themselves were in, and the constant threat of after-shocks, they continued digging throughout the morning. By their sheer determination and concern for others, they managed to save the lives of at least seven people. They also recovered 3 bodies.
Back at the family home in Sheffield, Ruth's parents, Sylvia and Keith Millington, were on their way out of the house, when they caught the lunchtime news and the first reports of the earthquake.
'We didn't know exactly where in Iran Ruth was,' recalls Keith, 'but I knew it was a short name, and when Bam was mentioned, I knew that was it.'
It didn't take long for the Foreign Office to be able to confirm that Ruth was, in fact, alive and well.
For her courage and selflessness in helping to save the lives of others, Ruth has been awarded a Royal Humane Society Testimonial on Vellum, personally signed by the Society's President, HRH Princess Alexandra. (Michael Runkel was not eligible for an award only because he is not British).
An Austrian citizen was one of those saved and the Austrian government has also honoured Ruth, with its Gold Medal on a Scarlet Ribbon.
Both awards were presented to Ruth at the Residence of the Austrian Ambassador in London on 5 November 2004.
His Excellency, Dr Alexander Christiani, said the Gold Medal was a top civilian honour. 'The immediate reason is because Ruth saved the life of an Austrian citizen,' he said, 'but it goes far beyond that: it is a recognition by the Republic of Austria of the bravery of a decent human being who has acted to help others.'
Ruth herself has set up a charity called Action for Orphans to help some of the thousands of children orphaned in the earthquake.
For her own part, she emphasised the importance of moving forwards:
'I'm very grateful for these awards,' she said, 'because they are part of the healing process for me. The scale of the loss to the people of Bam was huge - some families lost dozens of members - and I'm committed to trying to help some of the children by recreating family homes for them.'