On September 11, 2001, I was in the second month of pregnancy with my first child. I remember wondering what kind of world I was bringing a child into. Thirteen years later, I think it is fitting to tell a story that reminds us that there are good people in the world.
Yesterday I dropped off one of my children at her gymnastics lesson and headed out for a run. If I’m a very good girl, I can squeeze in 4.5 hilly miles in 50 minutes. It’s not easy to do, especially since I much prefer running in the early morning rather than in the late afternoon. But I like to get in hill work at least once per week, and I like to take advantage of the time that my daughter is in her lesson, rather than wasting it by driving home and back to pick her up. So I set off on foot and huffed and puffed through the 93 degree weather. Yes, 93 degrees.
I only made it eight minutes into the run though, when I happened upon an elderly woman who called to me for help. She was on the sidewalk, clinging to a wall, clearly struggling to walk in the heat. Her car had run out of gas a little way down the road, and when she could not tell AAA her exact location, she set off on foot for help (without her cell phone, purse, or any water). Thank goodness another runner, Carlos, soon came up behind me, and together we were able to support the woman enough to assist her back to her car. Another driver saw us all on the side of the road, and when she stopped we asked her if she had any water. She set off to the nearest store to buy some for each of us.
I called AAA again and gave the representative our location, and then Carlos and I stayed with the woman until the service van arrived with a couple of gallons of gas. During that time, we tried to assess the woman’s physical and mental condition. At first we believed she just needed some cold water and a little rest and then she would be fine to drive again. However, the more we talked with her, the more concerned we became. (I didn’t think she showed signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, but perhaps I should have been more concerned about that. If I thought she was in immediate physical danger I would have called 911, but she kept insisting she was fine, and just needed to rest a bit). Carlos and I decided that we would have the AAA driver fill up her tank with the two gallons of gas and then lead her to the gas station down the road just to be safe.
After waiting for half an hour, I had to run (literally) back to pick up my daughter, so Carlos stayed with the woman until the AAA guy arrived a few minutes later. I drove back 10 minutes after that to make sure everything was okay, and saw that the AAA guy was there with the woman. Carlos told me that unfortunately the woman was not in any better condition to drive, and the AAA driver made the assessment that she required a tow truck to pick up the car and take her home. In retrospect I wonder whether we should have called the police to have an officer assess the situation, because the longer it went on the less clear it was that she had all her mental faculties, and the less clear it was whether that was due to the heat alone or due to a more serious decline in her mental health prior to getting lost and running out of gas. I was reassured by the fact that she recited her address correctly (based on her driver’s license) and she insisted she knew the way home, and at this point I just have to trust that the AAA man and the tow truck driver did what they needed to do to make sure that she got there safely (and got her additional help if she truly needed it).
When I finally got home at 5:30 p.m., I hopped on the treadmill to finish off the remaining 2.3 miles of my run. It wasn’t easy, and it took me a long time to wind down from the day’s adventures. In the end, I am grateful that within the space of half an hour, four people had taken time out of their day to assist an elderly woman in a crisis. And I’m happy to have met Carlos, who will be running the LA Marathon as his first full marathon in March. I’m sure our paths will cross again, and I can rest assured knowing that good people like him are out running, patrolling the streets, ready to help anyone in need.
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