by Barbara Crawford
I finished graduate school in the summer of 1984. A few days later, my roommate, my dog and I were driving a large U-Haul truck from Provo, Utah, to Washington, D.C., where I hoped to get a job. Everything my friend and I owned was in that U-Haul, plus my car was towed behind it.
We got to the outskirts of Denver about rush hour and I was coming down a steep grade in stop-and-go traffic when the brakes started burning. Lots of black smoke was coming out of my wheels. I had no idea how much longer I would have brakes. I was absolutely horrified.
Worse, I was driving in a highway construction zone, so there was no shoulder to pull over into. To my right was just a line of orange barrels. Beyond that was a meager couple of yards to a drop off — with a long way to the bottom down a steep rocky mountainside. If my brakes gave way, there was nowhere to go but right into the back of the guy in front of me.
The guy in the pickup truck before me somehow let me know that he knew I was in trouble — and that he would use his brakes to help stop me if I lost mine. It would be a gosh-awful mess, but he wasn’t going to let me down. I can’t express how much that reassurance meant to me.
Given the amount of combined weight between the full U-Haul and my car, his truck would have undoubtedly been destroyed. He would have been injured seriously, perhaps even worse. He had to have known that.
It would have been smart for him to get out of our way and let us chance smacking into someone else. But he stayed right in front of us, giving me as much room as he could manage, for as long as I needed it. Moreover, his eyes smiled reassurance in his rearview mirror.
Soon we hit a more level road, traffic started moving better, and the danger passed. But boy was it tense for a while!
I never got to thank him personally. I never even saw his face, other than a glimpse of his eyes in his mirror and his hand waving goodbye when he knew we were going to be all right. Periodically, I still wish good fortune to the man in the pickup who offered to put himself in harm’s way to save two women in a runaway U-Haul.
It’s been almost 20 years and that one selfless act still deeply inspires me. I only hope that if I’m ever called upon to do something that grand, that I’ll come through just like the man in the truck did.