by Ellen Schrader
Stutts Durham, North Carolina, USA
Three of my college dorm mates and I headed home for Christmas from North Carolina to various points of the Northeastern United States. We were driving up I-95 in a rural part of Virginia when bad judgment launched us over a guardrail and down a steep embankment. It was after dark and, despite bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-95, we knew that the car was too far down the embankment to be seen. We were prepared for a very long hike to the next exit to call for help (this was in the mid-70s, long before cell phones!)
Before we could scramble to the top of the embankment, we heard a voice asking if we were hurt. A motorist had seen us go over the guardrail and immediately pulled over to help. He was about as surprised to see us as we were to see him! He told us that judging from the way the car plummeted, he hadn’t expected to find survivors. Mr. Olson was a traveling salesman headed home to the D.C. area after a week of work. He offered to drive us to the nearest exit so we could call police and a wrecker and, since the car was obviously totaled, notify our parents that we wouldn’t arrive that night.
After making the necessary calls, Mr. Olson drove us back to the side of the road to wait for the police. Unfortunately for us, there had been an even-more-serious wreck down the road that night, so the police didn’t arrive for three hours. Mr. Olson insisted on waiting with us the entire time, running his car heater so we wouldn’t be cold.
Once the police had taken the accident report, he drove us to a nearby hotel to spend the night. Sensing that we were the stereotypical poor college students, he offered to loan us the money for the hotel room. We thanked him but declined, and offered to pay him for his trouble, or at least for the gas he used while waiting with us. But he refused to take any money, saying he hoped that if his wife or daughter were ever in a similar situation that someone would help them out.
In the process of climbing up the embankment, my roommate had lost her boyfriend’s class ring. She was devastated and spent considerable time trying to locate it in the dark. We mentioned her ring to the tow truck driver in passing. The next day he arrived at the hotel with the car — and the class ring! He had been so concerned about it that he had spent part of the morning going over the ground with a metal detector until he found it.
Two people going the extra mile to help a bunch of strangers — it certainly renewed my faith that there are good people in the world.