Class assignment brings survivor and rescuer together again
“Hi, my name is Melissa Lothridge. I was in a head-on collision on Nov. 18, 2012. It was 7 p.m. on the Wayland Road …”
So began an e-mail sent to Communications Center Supervisor Cara Sorrells on March 12, 2013.
Melissa went on to explain that she was given an assignment in class to send a letter of gratitude to someone she was most grateful for. She knew exactly who she wanted to send the letter to.
“I know his face like I was looking at him right now,” her e-mail continued. “I was wondering if there was any way you could find his name for me.”
Sorrells had to get permission from the person Melissa was looking for before she could pass his name and contact information on to her. Sorrells came through.
“Thank you so much, for all that you and whoever else helped me find who I like to call ‘my angel,’” Melissa wrote.
Marcus Davis, a Wayland fireman, never expected to hear from Melissa, but he will never forget her face either. He saw Melissa and another driver hit each other head on. He was traveling on the Wayland Road with two other people in a pickup truck about a quarter of a mile away from where the accident happened.
“I ran right to the car and I will never forget her face — I promise you, I will never forget it,” Davis said.
In the moments after witnessing the head-on collision, Davis took his cell phone out of his pocket.
“I grabbed my phone and I couldn’t unlock it to dial 9-1-1,” he said. “I tried and I tried and I tried and I couldn’t do it.”
Having responded to other accident scenes in his seven years on the Wayland Fire Department, Davis didn’t expect to see Melissa again. He has responded to other emergencies and not known the outcome.
When he received the letter from Melissa in February, he said, “For seeing her (Melissa), for how she was in the car, to get that letter — my wife bawled and cried. I shed a tear.”
As she was driving home from babysitting on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, Melissa saw a pair of headlights coming toward her.
“The first time I saw the headlights I said, ‘OK, it’s just another car coming. I’m going to keep my eyes on the road,’” she said. “Then I realized she’s in my lane. So I said, ‘OK, I’m getting over because if I went in the ditch, who knows if anybody would have seen me.’”
According to Melissa, the other driver had fallen asleep, but she woke up and returned to her lane.
“I went into grown-up mode, is what I think of it,” she said. “I went into this mode and then I remember thinking, ‘OK, she got back over.’ I could see that. I can’t react. I just remember putting my body numb — I just went numb. ‘OK, I’m done. There’s nothing I can do to change this outcome right here.’”
Melissa said she just went blank.
“I remember waking up,” she continued. “He’s talking to me. I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ Then I remember.”
“It’s not something to be funny about, but that night when I was with her I bet I told her my name 30 times,” Marcus said.
He knew she had a compound fracture of one of her legs.
“Her leg was caught underneath her seat,” Marcus said. “When the floorboard crinkled her, it took her foot and shoved it under the seat.”
Marcus told Melissa and her family that he tried to keep her mind off her leg while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.
Melissa told him that she didn’t remember his name until Sorrells told her.
“When she told me your name for the first time, I remembered being there and you said, ‘Hi, my name is Marcus. I’m with the Wayland Fire Department. Help is on the way.’”
Marcus told her that she wanted out of the car. He had to tell her that he wasn’t moving her.
“You’re going to sit right here,” he said. “The car’s off; there’s no fire. I’m going to keep you until they can take care of you.”
Later, Melissa told Marcus that she doesn’t remember being taken out of her car, but she does remember being lifted into the ambulance.
“I remember you getting out of the car,” he said.
“I don’t,” Melissa replied.
“I remember you screaming bloody murder,” he said.
“Was she really?” Melissa’s mother, Jennifer Goodman, asked.
“Oh, yeah,” he said.
When asked what Marcus did to help her immediately after the accident, Melissa said, “He was just there. I think of him as my angel.”
“You were freaking out because of what happened,” he said. “You knew you couldn’t move and you were hurting. I just sat there and wanted to be able to calm you down because I knew if you started hyperventilating, we were going to have bigger problems. So we just started talking.”
The conversation between Marcus, Melissa and Melissa’s family took place in the Washington High School commons in April, where she is a junior. It was the second time Melissa and her “angel” met. Melissa’s parents, Jennifer and John Goodman, and her sister Megan were there to hear more about what happened on Nov. 18.
Marcus talked a little bit more about what he had witnessed on Wayland Road that night.
“I watched both cars lift up when they hit,” Marcus said. “I was that close. I can picture it. It was like the SportsCenter where they play replay after replay. I can play it fifteen hundred times in my head. When the cops asked me who did it, whose fault it was, I can tell you that I seen it, but I can’t tell you what happened. I remember seeing headlights and taillights and then it was dark.”
Marcus said he thought to himself that they were at the bottom of a hill and it was dark. He was afraid someone would drive over the hill.
“So we protected her with our truck just so — if someone did come, they would hit our truck and veer off,” he said.
Another vehicle drove up and that driver, Bill Edwards, blocked the other vehicle in the accident.
Marcus also talked about going home later that night.
“I went home and talked and talked to my wife about it because it was so unreal just to see,” he said.
His biggest fear, he said, was seeing something bad happen to a young person. However, he told Melissa and her family, “I’m glad I did what I did because that’s what I want to do, help people out.”
“I’m so glad we were able to meet you and to say thank you in person because she’s very special to us,” Jennifer said.
“Not often do you get to have a good outcome out of a bad situation like that,” Marcus said. “I can tell you we had Air Care on their way.”
In addition to her broken leg, Melissa had a broken wrist. Doctors put her wrist back together with a metal plate and six screws. She broke her collarbone. One heel and ankle were broken. Her tibia and fibula were broken. The tibia tore through her skin. Her kneecap was shattered. Doctors put four screws in her kneecap. Later, in the hospital Melissa had trouble breathing, so they took her to the pediatric intensive care unit. They gave her a breathing mask and two transfusions.
“I have terrible, terrible dreams,” she said.
“You just make sure you keep your head up and think positive,” Marcus said. “You’re here. That’s the main thing. I was there for a reason; you were there for a reason.”
“I just want to say that without you being there right away, who knows what could have happened,” Jennifer said. “And somebody being there to call 9-1-1. You were her guardian angel. We just think it was fate that you happened to be behind her, with your experience. We are so grateful.”
Marcus told the family about a fatal accident he responded to on Highway 218. The victim was 23 years old.
“Her mother got the worst call ever,” he said. “That’s something that you’ve got to remember in your head that you get to call your mom and tell her you love her. You get to spend time with your family.”
“That’s the main reason she found it so important to find you and to show you how far she’s come and to thank you for being so great to her.”
His last words to Melissa were, “If you ever need to, send me a message and I’ll talk you through whatever I can. Let me know.”
The teacher who assigned the letter of gratitude was Jay Zieglowsky.
“One of the best teachers here,” she said. “He teaches a ‘succeed’ class — how to succeed in life. He gives you things to look forward to and to be thankful for.”
“It’s nice to know what Marcus thought of the letter,” Melissa said. “Makes me feel 100 times better that he can feel that way.”
She got an A.