Over the weekend in Logan, Utah, Roger Anderson was driving his two children and another child along a windy road en route to a ski resort. It was a road he’d driven countless times, but this time was different. When Anderson sensed that the road was slick, he tapped the brakes. That’s all it took to send the car careening out of control. The car veered into an icy river and overturned.
“Within a second, the entire cabin of the vehicle was full of water,” Anderson told ABC News. When he couldn’t immediately free the children from their seatbelts, he surfaced for air. That’s when he realized he wasn’t alone. In fact, there were at least half a dozen men standing on the river bank asking if anyone else was in the car. When he yelled that there were children trapped in the car, several men entered the icy water without hesitation.
One of the first men to help was Chris Willden, a former police officer who was carrying a pistol. After shooting out one of the car’s windows, he reached inside but could not find any of the children.
“I was trying to grab arms, but I couldn’t feel anything,” said Willden. Being a father of three, Willden was determined to rescue the children. When he realized that one of the girls was trapped by her seatbelt, he cut it with a pocketknife and pulled her from a window. Soon after, the other children were on the riverbank as well. Anderson’s two children had to be revived by rescuers, who performed CPR. Fortunately, the children were said to be doing well afterward.
At a news conference, Anderson said, “I was amazed at the people and the readiness of people to jump in and help. Without hesitation, they just did what they had to do … And that … for our family, made all the difference.”
Obviously, this heart-warming story could have quite easily had a very tragic outcome. There are so many great learning points here — from driving safely to making sound decisions under extreme stress, to having the right tool for the job — in this case, Willden being armed with a pistol and a knife.
But perhaps the most important factor that contributed to the favorable outcome was the willingness of several strangers to put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of three helpless children who desperately needed them.
What other lessons can we learn from this incident?