ROCKVILLE – As Norma Winffel recalled her husband and the significance of his actions May 6, she fought back tears and smiled during a meeting for the Montgomery County Civic Federation.
“I want the world to know that he was not just a number, he’s just not a statistic,” Norma said. “He was a hero to us and now the world knows that.”
The federation awarded Norma and her family the Community Hero Award at the beginning of their meeting Monday evening at the County Executive building.
The federation’s president, Jim Zepp, said Malcom Winffel’s and Carl Unger’s actions at the Westfield Montgomery Mall during Eulalio Tordil’s shooting spree served as examples of “self-sacrifice” and “heroism.”
Malcom Winffel died from the shooting at Montgomery Mall and Claudina Molina died during a separate shooting later that day in Aspen Hill.
Tordil wounded Unger but he has since left the hospital.
“We’re constantly being faced with moral questions,” said Zepp. “What we wanted to do tonight was to recognize the two individuals in the Montgomery Mall parking lot that courageously tried to interpose themselves between the gunman and the intended victim.”
According to Malcom’s mother, Julia Winffel, receiving the award gives the family a feeling of support from the community.
“I thought it was beautiful and I really appreciate it,” said Julia said. “We feel supported from the people.”
Julia said during the past four months, family members found comfort in each other and in talking about Malcom. She recalled the last time she saw Malcom when they were talking about a family trip.
“People say it will pass. But no, at least for a mother, no. I adore my children,” Julia said. “(Malcom) was a treasure to me. But they took him from me. It’s hard but we have to move forward. What else can we do?”
Malcom’s father, Alejandro, agreed the award will help the family move forward together.
“I am really grateful (for the award). We have to be strong. There is no other way. We have to keep moving forward however it takes,” Alejandro said.
Long-time family friend Roberto Robles, however, said it the family has struggled to move because they are not ready to move forward yet.
However, he also said the award could help Malcom’s children carry his example of someone who cared and helped anyone he could.
“I think it’s always important for the children to see their father in a certain light, to feel that everything that he had taught them and he had told them about life, he didn’t just speak it, he lived it and he lived it through his example,” Robles said.
Robles said he and Malcom used to “battle each other” about football since Malcom was a Dallas Cowboys fan and he is a Redskins fan. He said he has come up with a tradition to keep watching the games with Malcom.
“One of the gestures I told (Norma) I would do is I have his Cowboys jersey, so from now on, for the rest of my life, I will wear that jersey every time the Cowboys and the Redskins play. I’ll wear my Redskins hat. It’s kind of a gesture because that way he and I can watch it together,” Robles said.
The federation also wanted to award Carl Unger the Community Hero Award.
However, due to Carl’s wife being sick, no one from the Unger family could attend the meeting to receive the award.
However, Carl’s wife Virginia Henderson said she appreciated the gesture from the federation.
“It was a nice gesture,” Virginia said. “They didn’t have to do that but they did, just like (Carl and Malcom) didn’t have to do what they did but they did.”
According to Virginia, Carl initially did not want to go to the meeting but changed his mind until she became sick.
She said he doesn’t want all of the attention and wants to return to work. She said his coworkers from the Navy Yard visited him and showed a lot of support.
“He wants to just keep it going. He wants to go back to work,” said Virginia. “They’re just so glad to see him up and around. He’s very well missed on that base.”
She also mentioned his condition improved since they left the hospital and he is slowly regaining his ability to work out.
“He’s driving. Everything is normal, he just can’t lift anything heavy,” Virginia said.
She said Cark will be returning to work in January. She also said they often keep in touch with the Winfell family.
Norma said she is proud of Malcom and his heroism did not surprise anyone in the family.
She said she hopes justice will be served and that her husband’s actions will not go in vein.
“This was not a surprise to us because this was a man of honor and he was a big defender of women and children. So when we knew one of us had passed we knew it would be our hero, our dad, our husband,” Norma said.