The better angels of our nature

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The horrific shooting yesterday at the Navy Yard complex in Washington D.C. is yet another stark reminder of the kinds of evil that can be committed by humans against one another.

In the long days to come, as investigators of all stripes work this heinous crime scene, details with no doubt emerge to try and explain what drove this particular murderer to kill innocent people.

Yet it is during terrible moments such as this one that we do well to remember that human beings far more frequently commit acts of courage and heroism, putting themselves at risk to save the lives of others – often, in many cases, the lives of total strangers.

[For example, every year on September 11 the middle school my children attend shows the following video – a sad but uplifting tribute to how ordinary people can perform extraordinary deeds in times of crisis.]

There’s of course a program familiar to everyone in the trucking business dedicated to recognizing such “everyday heroism” by truck drivers: the Goodyear Highway Hero Award.

Sponsored by Goodyear Commercial Tire Systems, the Highway Hero award program is now in its 31styear and is seeking nominations from across the industry and general public as well thru November 29 this year.

(And if you know of a driver whose actions deserve such recognition, click here for details on how to nominate them).

 

I talked to Donn Kramer, Goodyear's director of marketing for commercial tires, and Mike Manges, the division’s communications manager, about some of the reasons why the company developed this recognition program way back in 1983 – one of the main ones being a way to help elevate the image of the trucking industry while recognizing truck drivers for their courage and selflessness.

“We you think about what these individuals have done and the lives they’ve saved, you know truck drivers don’t fit the negative stereotypes we often see and read about – they are really good people who are true ambassadors for this industry,” Kramer told me.

Manges noted that very often the truck driver truly is the “first responder” in a highway incident, as they either witness it first hand or come upon it shortly after it’s happened – usually well before the first 911 call is made. In many cases, he added, they are the ones making that 911 call as they rush in to see what aid they can offer.

“Many of them act without regard to their own safety and often don’t seek recognition for their deeds,” Manges explained to me. “For every driver we’ve recognized in the Highway Heroes program, we’re sure hundreds go unrecognized and often unknown for the good deeds they’ve done.”

I’ve written about more than a few of them, including Jorge Orozco Sanchez and David Zorn, and their stories are often nothing short of amazing.

Manges believes one of the more “amazing” aspects of the Highway Hero nominees he’s encountered over the years is just how humble they are – that they commit what turns out to be a life-saving act then, when the danger is past, simply hop back in the cab and return to the driving tasks at hand.

“They often tell me that what they do isn’t special – in fact, they hope that if they were ever in a tight spot on the highway, that someone would do for them what they’ve done for others,” he explained.

Kramer added that Goodyear hopes to forge closer connections with state highway patrol agencies, medical response teams, and the general public to help shine the spotlight on more of “highway hero” deeds, too.

“That’s because often times the winners of this award prove to be excellent ambassadors, promoting the industry in a positive way while speaking at schools and other public venues,” he said. “The actions of the ‘Highway Heroes’ is testament to the quality individuals that work in our industry.”

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