The sun shone brightly in the cloudless blue Wabash, Indiana, sky.
“That was an especially beautiful sunny day,” recalls Jimmy Mitchell, a statuesque man in his early thirties.
That day Jimmy was driving his car behind a man on a motorcycle, who was behind a truck hauling a boat,
when suddenly the truck swerved erratically. Miraculously the motorcyclist avoided hitting the truck,
but he couldn’t prevent himself from colliding with the boat.
The impact of the crash dislodged the boat from the truck, and slammed the motorcyclist to the ground,
leaving him lying severely injured in the middle of the road. However, the driver of the truck didn’t stop his vehicle,
but raced away from the scene of the accident.
Jimmy Mitchell didn’t think twice about stopping to help.
Nor could he ever imagine what price he would pay for his good deed.
“I pulled over, got out of the car and rushed over to give the man whatever first aid I could.”
Jimmy recalled, his large gray eyes misting over as he detailed the events of his brush with death.
The man’s name was Fred Griffin. After getting Fred untangled from the boat,
Jimmy carefully dragged him into the shade by the road, then told him he was going for help,
assuring him he would be back. Heart pounding with fear for the injured motorcyclist, Jimmy raced to the nearest house,
and asked the person who lived there to call 911 to report that there had been a hit-and-run,
and give a description of the truck. He then returned to the injured man.
Jimmy was applying pressure to slow Fred’s bleeding when, glancing up,
he noticed that the driver of the truck had returned to the scene. When the man spotted Jimmy, he ran back to his truck.
What Jimmy had no way of knowing was that the inebriated driver—a man with a criminal record—
had returned to his truck to get a nine-millimeter pistol.
As Jimmy was bending over caring for the injured Fred, the man shot Jimmy four times, twice in the back.
Thinking Jimmy was dead, the man then shot and killed Fred.
Believing that both were dead, the driver of the truck climbed back into his truck and sped away.
He didn’t get far. A roadblock had been set up in response to the 911 call.
Spinning the truck around, the driver raced back down the road in the direction of the accident.
He tried to avoid the wreck he had caused, but in his frenzied flight,
he rolled his truck and smashed into a telephone pole directly in front of Jimmy Mitchell.
As he looked in the direction of where Jimmy lay, he realized that Jimmy was still alive.
“He was going for his gun,” Jimmy said. “But that moment a policeman arrived, and handcuffed him.”
The cop’s timing was fortuitous for Jimmy.
Even so, the gunshot wounds left the young husband and father of two small children,
permanently paralyzed from the waist down.
Jimmy’s tale was just one of the heart-wrenching stories I listened to,
while serving as a guest expert on the Geraldo Rivera Show.
The stories of the panel members assembled beside me—
mothers,fathers and relatives who had lost loved ones to senseless violence—stirred my soul.
Jimmy’s story, like the others, was harrowing. But unlike the other panel members,
Jimmy was an actual victim who had survived his ordeal. “You were so heroic, Jimmy.
But after making such a personal sacrifice, would you ever be a Good Samaritan again?” Geraldo asked.
“I would help again,” Jimmy answered without hesitation. “I’d want someone to help me.
I think it’s a sad world when we can’t stop and help another person.”
The story of Jimmy Mitchell, a man whose selfless act proved heroic,
grows even more touching with the response of the citizens of Wabash to his disability.
It was months after that fateful summer afternoon before Jimmy was able to return to work.
Many challenges confronted him. Confined to a wheelchair, mobility was one of them.
After seeing Jimmy’s wife, Lori, struggling to get Jimmy out of the car one day,
citizens in Wabash County decided to reach out.
Recently, representatives of his community presented Jimmy with the keys to a new van—
totally equipped to accommodate his disabilities.
What is lost in so many lives and must be recovered, is the trust that people will reach out to help,
support and assist others.
Many do: parents who lovingly act in responsible ways in the raising of their children;
teachers who maintain excellence in teaching their students to learn; friends who are caretakers and caregivers;
those who act with honesty, courage, kindness, encouragement and courtesy—helping each other as we go about our lives.
Like Jimmy Mitchell did.