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Heroes in Waiting

January 16, 2012

How would you make a heroic rescue?

Start with Innocence.  A dad driving three children sees a car in front of him leave the road and partially block his lane.  He taps his brakes to slow down.  The road is icy.  Tapping the brakes is enough for his car to slide off the crown of the road and onto the shoulder.

Add bad luck.  The car slides across the shoulder, rolls down the river bank and two windows on the passenger side are knocked out.   The small sedan stops upside down in the Logan river.  The passenger compartment fills with water in seconds.

Mix in a small bit of good luck.  It is day time so the river is visible.  The car comes to a stop where it can be seen by drivers on the road.  The bottom of the car is visible above the surface of the water.  Cars are able to drive past the original accident so other drivers see the flooded car.

Season with preparation. Everyone in the sedan is wearing their seat belts.  The driver, Roger Andersen, is conscious.  He releases his seat belt and claws, swims and climbs toward the surface of the river.  Fortunately the window is broken and he can escape.

Add resolve.  Andersen stays with the car trying to free the children.  He reaches through the window but cannot find them.  He calls for help from drivers stopped on the road.

Add emotion.  Eight to ten people act immediately and throw themselves into motion.  They stop their cars, climb down the rock and brush covered riverbank and wade into the waist high freezing river.

Mix with failure. The children are trapped in the car and the car doors won’t open.

Add imagination.  One rescuer, Chris Willden, a former law enforcement officer, draws his handgun and presses the barrel against the submerged part of the rear window.  He fires the gun and shatters the glass.  The rescuers reach through the window but cannot release the seat belts trapping the children in their seats.

Add unity.  Together the eight rescuers roll the small Honda sedan upright to get the passenger compartment near the surface.  Willden reaches through the window and cuts the seatbelts with his knife.  The rescuers drag the children from their seats and carry them up the bank.

Add the hint of failure.  Andersen’s two children are unresponsive and not breathing.  All three of the children are gray from hypothermia.

Spread good luck.  One of the rescuers is a respiratory therapist.  She takes over cardio pulmonary resuscitation on the smallest child.  The child, four years old, begins breathing on his own and throws up.  Moments later he turns to a human voice when called.  She again takes over treatment on the other victim who is breathing by this time.  The victims and rescuers are stripped of their wet cloths and loaded into cars to warm up.  The crash victims are transported to a hospital for treatment and observation.

The secret sauce.  The first responders did not wait for rescue equipment to arrive and safely recover three lifeless bodies from the car.  They acted in a moment of need and brought what they had, be it courage, muscles, tools or medical skills.  Up until that moment they were heroes in waiting.  We thank them all.

In a thousand ways, large and small, those heroes could be you.   They should be you as you help in a moment of need.  They started with small acts of bravery.  Follow them.

Thank you.  You make the world a better place.

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