Friday, March 20, 2009

Goodyear Highway Heroes

The word “hero” gets bandied about as if it were a feat of magic to play ball or pretend to be the savior of the universe on the silver screen. Mainstream media pushes overpaid athletes to the forefront as though they make a difference in our lives. None of them are what I would call a hero.

Today, I met five real heroes. Quiet, shy and humble men who saw terrible life-threatening situations and, with little regard for their own safety, acted to save the lives of others.

Colorado truck driver Jorge Orozco Sanchez was named Goodyear’s 2008 Highway Hero at a special awards banquet in Louisville, Kentucky, during the Mid-America Trucking Show. That's Jorge, pictured on the left, with his best friend Roberto Castillo who came to be with him for the special event.

On October 28, 2008, Orozco Sanchez was hauling grain north of Greeley, CO, when an SUV crossed the center line and crashed head-on into his tractor trailer. Orozco Sanchez worked with a passer-by with a fire extinguisher to knock back the flames and was able to rescue two young girls in car seats just before the saddle tanks exploded, engulfing the vehicle. The 27-year-old mother died in the crash. Orozco Sanchez suffered burns on his arms and was transported to a nearby hospital.

I had the great privilege of meeting and visiting with Jorge, and I can tell you that he is very humble and shy about the attention he is getting. He told me that he only did what any truck driver would do to help out. Jorge Orozco Sanchez is every bit a hero.

The other Goodyear Highway Hero finalists are :Roy Hackett, a 30-year driver for UPS out of Nashville, TN. Driving near Chattanooga, TN on April 22, 2008, Hackett heard on the CB radio that a car up ahead was on fire. The occupant of the car was wedged between the seat and steering wheel and due to recent hip surgery, was unable to move. Hackett was able to free the man and pull him about 60 yards away from the car and stayed with the driver until emergency personnel arrived

The car driver wrote to UPS, “I believe the Lord put Roy’s brown truck behind me so he could save me.

Willie Wilson, a UPS driver from Santa Clara, CA was traveling on I-80 in Yolo County, California when he noticed a glow in the distance, off the freeway. Stopping his truck, he grabbed his fire extinguisher and ran to a car that had run off the road and rolled over. The car was on fire and the driver was inside. Wilson dragged the driver to safety as the Davis Fire Department arrived to extinguish the fire and treat the injured driver.

Tihomir Tanev of Schiller Park, IL, and Nikolay Zashev, of Franklin Park, IL, are team drivers for FedEx Ground. On January 21, 2008, these team drivers were en-route to Sacramento, California, when a large van spun out of control in the eastbound lane of I-80 in Iowa, crossed the median and struck the FedEx rig. Zashev, driving at the time, was able to keep the trucks and set of doubles upright and avoided contact with all other vehicles. Exiting the truck, Zashev and Tanev pulled the unconscious and bleeding driver to safety as the van became engulfed in flames.

The common thread between these men is that they are truck drivers who reacted quickly when presented with a serious life-threatening situation. Each of these men raced against the clock, fighting back flames, risking their own safety. To come to the aid and rescue of a perfect stranger, each of these men showed a selfless act of courage that defines the word "hero."

I have met greatness and I shook their hands.

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