“What lies behind and before us pales in comparison to what lies within us.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
One of my favorite characters in the great Greek saga “The Iliad” about the fall of Troy is Hector - the Trojan prince that valiantly leads the ultimately doomed defense of that great ancient city in Asia Minor. Hector - which means “holding fast” in English - is also known as one of the “nine worthies” as he‘s known not only for his great courage but also for his noble stature and humility.
Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like truck driver Lou Esposito.
[Lou Esposito, standing tall by his one-of-a-kind tribute to the heroes and fallen souls of September 11.]
I met Lou this past week at the “Truckers & Citizens United” rally in Washington D.C. They formed a convoy that drove around the U.S. Capitol to protest high fuel prices, followed by the truckers parking their rigs so they could visit their lawmakers in person.
Lou‘s rig caught my eye at the rally site (FedEx Field stadium in Maryland) due to its lavish graphics depicting the events of September 11 and the heroes of that horrible day. Every single one of the 9/11victims is listed alphabetically on one side of Lou‘s truck cab, with the top of the hood emblazoned with the images of New York City fire fighters: a testament to their bravery and heavy losses when the World Trade Center towers collapsed.
He calls his rig the “Trucker‘s Tribute” and it‘s a fitting title - for Lou himself gave up a good part of himself to help in the recovery efforts following the attacks.
Lou worked long hours at Ground Zero (as the trade center site came to be known) helping clear debris from area until his own moment of terror struck. A piece of steel rebar fell off one of the damaged buildings directly onto his head. The impact triggered nerves in his left arm, raising it up just in time to be pierced right through by that same piece of steel - then pinning him to the ground.
He doesn‘t remember any of it, but his rescuers later told him the steel hit with such force that they could not pull it from either his body or the earth - they had to use a welder‘s torch to cut him free.
[All the victims of September 11 are listed in alphabetic order on the side of Lou's cab.]
A veteran trucker with 36 years under his belt, built like a heavyweight boxer with massive hands, the head injury from the steel caused a severe stroke that left Lou unable to walk or speak for a year. In time, he learned to walk again by literally forcing himself to stumble day after merciless day up and down the dirt road outside his home in Littleton, N.C. Later, he taught himself how to drive and shift gears all over again in the same grueling manner on that very same strip of red clay.
“It took a long time - but I got back on the road,” he told me.
In a way, though, it‘s not surprising Lou managed to beat what the Greeks called “the fates” - goddesses in charge of weaving an unalterable destiny for every man, woman, and child on earth. Much like a Greek hero, he‘s used to overcoming long odds - usually with a lot of laughs. Right now he‘s fighting cancer - he lost his prostate to this insidious disease, but not his sense of humor. “I named my dog ‘Chemo‘ after the chemotherapy pills I have to take,” he told me.
Lou and his family also care for a son afflicted with Down‘s syndrome, but it‘s much more than that - talking with him, you know instantly he‘s not only proud of his son, but shares a lot of joy with him. “He loves riding in my truck,” he told me.
Despite his own struggles, Lou - an owner-operator - always wanted to create a rolling tribute from truckers to the heroes and victims of the September 11 attacks. Finally this year he drove out to California to meet an artist that could take his dream and put it on his tractor. Lou told me they worked on his truck for a month despite wildfires that raged all around them in the California hills.
And here it stands - the “Trucker‘s Tribute” in all its glory. Special 3-D paint makes ghostly images of the two towers appear then disappear depending on the angle at which you view his truck. [Also, a loyal listener to the Glen “Jonesey” Jones show on Sirius satellite radio, Lou made a special point to have the legend “Jonesey‘s Road Dog” emblazoned over the driver door on his rig.]
It‘s a one-of-a-kind truck for a one-of-a-kind trucker - a man standing tall against whatever the fates may throw at him.
A PAUSE FOR KUDOS
Before I leave this particular post, let‘s pause for a moment for a big “thumbs up” to truck driver Dean Smith and his wife out of Clearfield, Pa. As you may have heard, several truck drivers attending the rally had their equipment towed and impounded by Henry‘s Wrecker Service in Hyattsville, Md. The company wanted $2,000 to release the three trailers and one tractor they scooped up from an area the truckers were told was OK to park in overnight.
Dean got a call for help from his fellow drivers, so he pulled $1,800 cash from his family‘s emergency fund and drove all night to reach them - all with his wife‘s blessing, despite the fact that she is suffering from cancer. “If this isn‘t an emergency, I don‘t know what is,” she reportedly said.
“Kudos” by the way is (you guessed it) a Greek word that means gaining fame or renown from an act or achievement. The Smiths certainly earned that and a lot more for helping their fellow drivers out in a time of need.
[You can view a news report on this incident below courtesy of ABC 7 News, our great local television news station]