, Corbin, KY


January 9, 2014

What will you do when faced with a stranger’s crisis?

CORBIN — Crisis situation — most of the time throughout my life I’ve been the person directly involved in those — whether it’s going to the hospital for an illness, flying to the emergency room bleeding from yet another clumsy accident, or just general, typical madness.

I’ve always admired my mother for her handling of a crisis situation. I always was the one being dragged to the emergency room for one reason or another, so I never really knew what my mother went through while handling the multitude of crises from my youth.

Until my sister broke her arm.

My sister was riding her bike in the garage of a neighbor, and managed to wreck, like all children do. Her arm hurt, and she complained about the pain into the next day — and that’s when my parents opted to take her to the doctor.

And with good reason — she broke her arm close to the elbow. It had to be set before it could be wrapped in plaster.

My sister, who was about 7 or 8 at the time, also added to the building stress for my mother by refusing a shot of painkiller while her arm was being set.

After we got home and got my sister situated, my mother sat on the chair in the living room and was instantly wracked with sobs.

It broke my heart to see her like that, and when I talked to her later (I was maybe 11 or 12), I learned she had been doing crises that way since I was little.

It was impressive — I’m reminded of another time my mother faced one of my many crises. I was in third grade, and was bike riding like always, and wrecked and cracked my head open. I will never forget my mother’s calm demeanor — despite the fact her 7-year-old son walked in the house with blood pouring down the side of his head and face. She calmly contacted the emergency room to prepare them, then called my father at work to let him know we were emergency room bound.

She even sat calmly while the doctor injected a local anesthesia to my head, then picked out the gravels that hung on the open wound.

And still she remained calm.

So the other day I had my reaction to a crisis tested — and my test was for a stranger.

I was driving along in Greeneville, Tenn., headed toward race country — Bristol, Tenn.

Everything was going along fine. Traffic was moderate to heavy, and I was riding with maybe a dozen or so other vehicles.

I was behind a red Ford Explorer, and although the three lights we had just driven through were very much green, the fourth one we were about to encounter turned yellow.

The group I was traveling with began slowing down — except for the Explorer. I briefly thought his brake lights were out.

Then I quickly realized that wasn’t the case. As the light slipped into red, the Explorer kept right on going.

Thinking I had just witnessed the guy running a red light, I suddenly got a shock when a large, red GMC four-door pickup came out of the side street — and right into the passenger side of the Explorer.

Mouth agape, I began wondering about anyone in the Explorer — and as it continued sliding in the lane, I got a bit panicked.

“Don’t go over, don’t go over, don’t go over,” I kept repeating to myself out loud — but the mantra proved useless. The Explorer tipped over, and landed on the driver side. I got a clear view of the underside of the Ford.

I quickly called 911 and gave them the necessary information, including the fact I had witnessed the entire crash.

Then I pulled into a parking lot to see if I could help.

I saw the driver of the red GMC truck out and walking around — he appeared to be uninjured.

When I got to the Ford, about five or six others had gathered around. I thought they were passengers in the Ford, but found out they were all trying to help this one man trapped inside.

I reached for the passenger doors, but it was no use. The back door didn’t want to open either.

I came back around, and before I knew what was happening, the man next to me said “Here, step here.”

He had laced his fingers together and was prepared to hoist me up — we needed a better angle to open the passenger side door.

So here I am, standing on one stranger’s hands, to assist a second stranger trapped inside his vehicle.

I finally yank open the passenger door, then held it and tried to talk the injured man out of the vehicle. It was clear he was very dazed and confused — he couldn’t even tell us his name.

But, after some patient cajoling, me and the guy who hoisted me up were able to coerce him to crawl his way from under the steering wheel to get to safety.

Once he was out, others took him to their vehicle so he could await the rescue personnel.

I waited for the police to talk to me — I let them know immediately that I was a witness to the crash and I was ready when they were to give them the information I knew.

Once that part was done, I got in my car, and went about my day.

After telling my youngest sister about that, she acted very impressed. I never thought for a moment what I was doing would be considered “heroic,” but that’s the word she used to describe my actions.

It certainly made me feel pretty good — and then reminded me of a couple of good samaritans I ran into when I was 16.

I had my license for nine days, and crashed my mother’s car. It wasn’t my fault, mind you, but a crash is a crash.

After the initial impact, I was sent several hundred feet away from the point of contact — and ended up trapped in my car.

After several moments of extreme panic, coupled with a car horn that wouldn’t end, I began to scream wildly and jerk the door as hard as I could, throwing myself repeatedly against the door to get it open.

It would not open.

And the more it didn’t open, the worse I panicked.

Finally, two men who I never saw before or since, showed up at the door. Together, they jerked the door open so I could get myself out.

I never saw them again.

So now I know — officially know — what I will do if faced with a stranger’s crisis.

What would you do?

John Ross is a staff writer for the Times-Tribune. He can be reached at

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