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Truckers were road warriors during trying times in 2020 as their jobs were considered an essential service while many others, including some of their favorite truck stops were forced to close. 123rf stock photo
Being a good Good Samaritan, whether helping someone in medical distress or someone having vehicle issues, is not usually something drivers plan for. 123rf stock photo
There is no way any of us will look back on 2020 and think, “Well, that was business as usual.” But it’s still reassuring to reflect on the positive things this collective mind-boggle turned out.
In the automotive world, those united in traveling our roadways, policing them, and keeping us moving have had an extraordinary year.
Owning and maintaining a car is a costly thing; for single parents reliant on that car, it can sometimes be overwhelming. Twice a year for the past seven years, The Really Living Seventh Day Adventist Church in Hamilton, Ont. has provided free oil changes and once-overs to locals — tire pressure and fluid level checks, inside detail, and outside wash. It started with a single mom who said her lack of knowledge left her feeling intimidated, and the congregation pulled together to help.
In a year of precarious finances for many, maintaining their vehicle is a necessity they can’t overlook, but one that can be overwhelming. What a fabulous, steal-able idea.
In Sarnia, Ont. it was Bill Wyatt, owner of Corey Auto Wreckers, to the rescue when, in April, vandals smashed in glass on four cars parked at a retirement home hard-hit by COVID. Ordering and paying for the glass required was a needed kindness in these hard times.
In Weyburn, Sask., a school caretaker found an inspired way to pay it forward when she was off due to the March shutdown. Melissa Carson’s parents are truckers, and she started cooking for them when they realized that though they were deemed essential workers, the restaurants and truck stops they relied upon were not. Recognizing others would be in the same predicament, Carson decided to start offering home-cooked meals to truckers at Weyburn’s main truckstop. Many were moved to tears and wanted to pay, so she suggested $5. She kept it up for 57 straight days, 1,000 meals.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, many heroic events of the past year have happened because of those who drive for a living. The pros who have seen it all, and respond in an instant.
For a St. Paul, Minn. 911 dispatcher, 2020 would deliver a call he’ll never forget. Marty O’Herir caught a call in May from a distraught man driving 100 mph (160 kilometres per hour) on that state’s I-94. He told O’Herir he planned on dying that day either by crashing or taking on the police. For 22 long minutes, O’Herir kept the man on the line, discerning where he was as police plotted to intercept.
A hundred miles an hour, a man planning on dying, and one thin voice on the other end was the only thing standing in the way. When O’Herir learned the man was from Duluth, where he too was from, he started talking. “If you want to go to Duluth, I will ride with you. I am not letting you go,’” O’Herir said he told the caller. The man pulled the car over and credits O’Herir and the officer with saving his life. (Note: If you are struggling, please reach out to the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 833-456-4566, or text START to 741741)
Back in January, Brian Jeresano, a GO Bus driver with Metrolinx, noticed a young University of Guelph student, a regular on his route, boarded his bus looking terrified. She indicated a car parked nearby. “She told me that they were trying to get her inside the car,” he said. “I just said ‘Come on in.” He followed the car to obtain the licence number for police.
Now a young father himself, this man is who we all want watching out for our kids. “[He] often goes the extra mile as he doesn’t drop off female passengers at certain stations alone at night. For example, … instead of dropping them off at Guelph Central Station, he will take them to a nearby taxi stand,” reports Global News. “Metrolinx said Jeresano will be receiving a safety award for his dedication and commitment to public safety.” Give him all the awards.
In August, Durham, Ont. police were stymied in their attempts to apprehend a suspected impaired driver one Friday evening in Pickering. After receiving a complaint, they found the suspect heading into oncoming traffic; he bailed out of his car and took off. Police, unable to catch him on foot, ruled out a vehicle chase due to heavy traffic.
At that moment, a Jeep driver offered up his services. “That is when the Good Samaritan offered to let the officer stand on the passenger side foot rails of his Jeep while he drove after the suspect, police say. The pair then caught up to the suspect near the ramp from Kingston Road to westbound Highway 401.” The runner was subsequently charged with seven offences, including failure to stop and leaving the scene of an accident. I’m still loving the movie visual of a cop riding the side of the Jeep to catch him. Well done, Good Samaritan.
In a year that has been about sacrifice from all quarters, perhaps it’s appropriate to salute the final drive of a road warrior whose last act likely averted further tragedy. At the end of October, truck driver Gary Demars suffered a fatal heart attack while piloting a fully laden rig on the 401 near Kingston, Ont. “By all witness accounts and statements from the O.P.P., [he] performed a huge task of maneuvering his rig full of cars out of the middle lane and off the roadbed into a low ditch swamp area, thus bringing his rig to a stop safely with no one harmed,” his nephew David Wharram told Today’s Trucking.
A huge thank you to those who perform kind deeds on all our roads, especially those of you who do it unrecognized.