Everyday Heroism

The Feel-Good Story of the Week comes out of Colorado. It starts, however, in tragedy: a family — a man, woman, and four kids — rolled their car over in Brighton, which is northeast of Denver, along Interstate 76. The father of the family was killed. I know, this doesn’t sound too feel-good, but stay with me.

When Brighton Police officer Nick Struck arrived at the crash, one of the other first responders handed him one of the kids — a 2-year-old girl who had been thrown out in the wreck.

Healing Begins On-Site

“The first thing we do when we get on scene is we just try to, if we can comfort anybody, of course we’re going to go to the kids,” Struck said. He has a 2-year-old daughter himself, and he did what he does to comfort her: “My daughter …when she falls down and hurts herself? I sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’.”

“I know for my daughter, it’s just the attention that someone is there, listening,” Struck said later. “It’s the same for adults, but kids, they take it on a whole other level. They’ll gravitate to you, and I remember when I was holding her, she was grabbing the back of my arm, which is something my daughter does. Just stroking to the music, ‘twinkle, twinkle’.”

The scene was captured by Jessica Matrious, a witness to the accident, who took a photo of Strunk distracting the little girl to perhaps give her better memories of that day:

Photo: Jessica Matrious.

Matrious said the family’s car blew a tire, and crashed. The entire family was thrown out of the car as it rolled over. Clearly, investigators say, the family wasn’t properly restrained in the vehicle.

“I have a 2-year-old daughter and she’s my first kid,” Struck said. “So of course, your first thought is that could be your little daughter. I’m not a medical person, but I know how to give a hug to somebody, and you better believe every one of those officers on scene would do the same thing.”

And Here’s the Thing: cops, firefighters, and medics do this every day. It’s not at all unusual. What’s different here is someone was there to take a photo, thanks in large part to cameras being included in nearly every cell phone. Cameras not only catch wrongdoing. More and more, they also catch the heroism that first responders perform every day. And that makes me feel good.

Oh, and wear your seatbelts and put your kids in proper car seats, OK?

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17 thoughts on “Everyday Heroism

  1. You’re right, Randy, that *is* a feel-good story. It’s good to be reminded that if we ever get in trouble, there will be caring human beings there to help us out.

    Also — yes, wear a seatbelt. That little girl would probably still have a father if the whole family had been buckled up.

  2. This picture speaks a thousand words! These types of professions deal with tragedy so often, it is wonderful to offer comfort and solace when needed.

  3. I’ve always thought it was a little strange to see a family ride by on bikes, kids wearing helmets, parents not. My 7-year-old son has been known to tell people he sees on bikes “you’re supposed to wear a helmet.” I eventually had to tell him that adults ought to wear helmets but get to make that choice for themselves.

    So sad that these kids have lost their father (and probably been injured themselves, I’d imagine) over something as simple as putting on a seatbelt.

  4. There are so many positive events in our world that are never shared enough. Thanks Randy for sharing one of them.

  5. I truly don’t understand not wearing seat belts. They have been available for over 50 years, and have been proven to keep people from being ejected from the vehicle as well as preventing them from being tossed around the inside the vehicle.

    Some things I have heard:

    “But they mess up my clothes.” Doesn’t going through the windshield mess them up more?

    “But they are so restraining.” Do they need to actually jump around in the vehicle?

    “They are uncomfortable.” So is an aspen collar, traction, surgery, and a hospital bed.

    This goes along with this story: Teen son cited in crash that killed 5 family members traveling to Disney World. Why would somebody allow a 16 year old to drive that distance without either an adult that is awake, and making sure everybody else is wearing their seat belts?

    And “I want to be thrown clear in case of a crash” is another really stupid one. Nothing protects you more in a collision than a modern car. “Getting thrown clear” is short for “Getting beaten to death — or wishing it had finished the job.” -rc

  6. In addition to surviving cancer, I’ve also survived a car-crash. My first car was a used ’58 Plymouth, which didn’t have seat belts. For my holiday gift that year, my dad gave me a new interior for the car, which included seat belts. On the first day of college after the winter break, I was t-boned. Folded my car in half. The cop who investigated told me the seat belt kept me from going through the windshield, which would probably have killed me.

  7. Nick Struck’s actions are indeed highly commendable, and he has probably helped reduce this little girl’s trauma, but it’s such a shame that his actions were necessary. As Bernard said; “That little girl would probably still have a father if the whole family had been buckled up.”

    So the obvious question is; Why isn’t wearing seat-belts compulsory? Here in the UK it is, but in the US, like so many other things, it varies from state to state. In 35 states, plus D.C., it is covered by Primary Enforcement, whilst in the other 15 it is only covered under Secondary Enforcement, meaning that a police officer cannot stop a vehicle or cite a driver for the sole offence of not wearing a seatbelt.

    So why do 15 states think that this isn’t such a good idea as they do in all the others?

    What makes this story more tragic is that in Colorado, where it happened, wearing seat belts is actuality compulsory for all those in front seats, and for everyone under 16 wherever they are sitting. In this particular case that would have include the driver, his wife if she was in a front seat, and the 2-year-old. However, a 2-year-old cannot wear an adult seatbelt, so was she on a booster seat, strapped into a child seat, or being held in the mother’s arms?

    Although the accident itself may not have been preventable, if the driver had adhered to the law, his death might have been.

    But really we shouldn’t need laws to tell us to do what should be common sense, and in a situation like this, it isn’t just protecting ourselves, but also protecting those we love.

  8. I survived a car crash when I was 7. I had a concussion, so it’s all a little blurry, but fifty years later, I still remember the man who held me in his arms until the ambulance came. He left then, without leaving his name with us, so we were never able to thank him.

    Thank him by “paying it forward” to someone else. You may not be in the right place at the right time to hold a little girl after a crash, but there are many needs out there! -rc

  9. Thanks for the ‘feel-good’ story of the first responder singing Twinkle, Twinkle. We see so many stories of seemingly out-of-control police officers who appear to have a shoot first mentality. I guess it is an outgrowth of the ‘if it bleeds it leads’ mentality. We need to be reminded that the vast majority of police, first responders, fire fighters, and the like are dedicated, caring people who went into their profession because they wanted to help others and help their community. You do us all a service to remind us of all the ‘good guys’ out there.

  10. Jerry in UK, although I always wear a seat belt in a car (and a helmet when bicycling), I also believe that adults have the right to make their own decisions about it. Although it’s tempting to say that “if it’s bad for you, the government should forbid it”, that could easily be taken to unwelcome extremes.

    “The primary responsibility of government is to protect us from government. The secondary responsibility of government is to protect us from each other. It should never be the responsibility of government to protect us from ourselves.” (Sorry, I can’t seem to find a reference for the quote.)

  11. This past week a policeman in our area was killed while doing a traffic stop. I think so many of us forget, they are people — with families and people who love them. It is a very good thing when we can all see that they can be loving human beings who go out into the world on a regular basis to “Protect and Serve”.

  12. Thank you Arcie. Yes — there is a real series of emotions all tied up in this story. Wear your seat belt. My brother would be alive if he had had on a seat belt, like the driver and the front seat passenger that survived (with minor injuries) the rollover wreck way back in 1975. Cars are much safer now. Yes, I do wear mine always.

  13. Thank’s so much for the article re: car rollover in CO and he wonderfully empatheic officer who sang Twinkle twinkle to the little 2 yr old daughter. What I was wondering—is there a CO law for treadwidth for cars being driven on public roads? Here in NJ and NY there are laws that address that face. I always check my tires at least once/wk before driving. That’s been ingrained in me since age 17 when I got my drivers license. I’m now 71.

    Drivers, please do check your car before setting out.

  14. This just shows how broad the job of a first responder is, and their commitment to help the victims in any way needed. I know that many police and emergency responder vehicles have teddy bears stocked to help them deal with children in traumatic circumstances.

    Not wearing a seatbelt is the kind of thing that shocks me. It’s like the wackos that try and argue the moon landing didn’t happen. They simply don’t accept the facts of the real world. It’s one thing when people haven’t been exposed to information. It’s another when they’ve been told and they consciously reject it.

  15. Karl in California says that government should protect us from each other but not from ourselves. Seat belt laws actually do protect us from each other. In an accident or near miss, seat belts keep the occupants in their proper place, making it more likely that the driver can maintain or regain control of the vehicle, reducing further accidents. Seat belts should be required for all occupants under the same theory, as a human missile from the back seat can interfere with the driver as well.

  16. I never used to wear my seatbelt. It rubbed my neck something fierce and there wasn’t much on the market in those days to take care of that. However my son was always kept in the maximum safety. Rear facing seat in the middle of the back seat.

    For some reason it was bugging me for a few days that I was so careful with him, I really ought to be more for myself. The night I left for a camping trip, as usual, I didn’t have my seatbelt on. I stopped for a quick snack at a fast food place and as I was heading for the exit of the parking lot, I did a “darn it” and put my belt on.

    Not two minutes later I was rear ended at 60 mph (I was only doing about 30) by a huge tow truck. Folded that little car up. If I hadn’t had that belt on I would have been impaled on the steering wheel or through the windshield … or both. As it was, I got some permanent damage to one shoulder where I’d locked an arm on the steering wheel and a really nasty case of whiplash. My son was ok, although he must have had some bumps and bruises.

    For the last 30 years, I’ve never been in a car without my belt on and never let anyone else forget it either. It saved my life that day. My son even changed cars for a safer one a month after he found out they were expecting and my grandson is about as safe as he can be, outside of a tank. 🙂

    Please, please, don’t think it can’t happen to you or yours. Cars kill far more people than guns or any other of today’s “safety” bugaboos. Energy increases with the square of velocity and when you get a ton of metal moving at 60+ mph, that’s a lot of energy the human body just isn’t evolved to absorb.

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