Online reader comments don’t always make for the best reading. Between the mangled facts and the tit-for-tat insults, it’s often hard to get from the top of a comment string to the bottom before the eyes glaze over and it all dissolves into so much babble.
But then every once in a while, up pops something like this:
“i came up on a vehicle flipped over into a snow bank and a fence … i could see through the windshield an older man who had been thrown from the drivers seat to the passengers seat and was wedged against the passenger window … i assured him he would be ok and not to move, that the ambulance was on its way and i wasnt going to leave him until they got there … i cant seem to get this mans face and voice out of my head, id never experienced something like this and can only pray they got him out ok.”
Or, just beneath it, this:
“I was the man in that SUV. I wish I could say that I remembered you but I can’t remember what happened from the time of the crash till I arrived at the hospital … I am well on my way to recovering and I want to thank you so very much for being there for me.”
Scroll back to two weeks ago today:
Jim Scanlon, 58, was en route around 7 a.m. from his home in Cape Porpoise to his job as a ground transportation dispatcher at the Portland International Jetport. Suddenly, his 2001 Kia Sportage hit a patch of ice on a sharp curve along Log Cabin Road in Arundel.
Jim remembers losing control of the vehicle — but that’s about it. By the time the SUV came to rest on its passenger side against a snowbank and a fence, he’d been knocked out cold.
Enter Ashley Caston, 24, of Arundel.
She’d just dropped off her two boys — Ayden, 7, and Ryan, 5 — at day care and was headed in the opposite direction down Log Cabin Road for her job as a cook at the Maine Stay Inn & Cottages in Kennebunkport. Rounding the corner, she saw the Kia on its side.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God!”‘ recalled Ashley, who didn’t know whether she was looking at an accident that had just happened or one that was all over but for the tow truck.
Ashley, it should be noted before we go any further, is one busy young woman.
For starters, she’s a single mom who, after dropping out of school in her teens, went back last year and earned her graduation equivalency diploma. And in addition to that job at the Maine Stay, she’s currently enrolled in the culinary arts degree program at York County Community College.
Or, as she put it when asked to describe a typical day, “Both the kids to day care … go to school … leave school … go to work … leave work … pick up the kids … it’s basically non-stop.”
Yet on this icy morning, Ashley did stop.
Getting out of her car, still shocked at the sight of the overturned SUV, she saw a woman standing at the top of a nearby driveway.
“Did this just happen?” Ashley asked. “What’s going on?”
The woman replied that there was someone in the vehicle and she had called 911.
“I think he’s unconscious,” the woman said, adding that Ashley shouldn’t park her car there because someone else might hit it.
“But I’m not worried about someone hitting my car,” Ashley recalled. “I’m worried about whether he’s OK.”
Crawling up over the snowbank, Ashley looked through the windshield and saw a man lying in a heap on the passenger side of the Kia. His eyes were closed, but she could see his eyelids moving ever so slightly.
Spotting a narrow opening where the passenger door had separated from the frame, she sprawled across the snow and mud and called through the crack, “Can you hear me? Sir, can you hear me?”
Again, she hollered … and again … and again … until finally the man replied with a barely audible “Yes.”
“OK! You’re OK! You can hear me. You’re awake now,” she told him. “Now don’t move! Someone’s coming to help you and I’m not going to leave you until they get here. Don’t move, don’t do anything, just stay still!”
Five or six minutes later — it felt a lot longer — the emergency crews arrived. They quickly debriefed Ashley on what little she knew, thanked her and took over the scene.
Ashley, by now late for work, got in her car and headed for Kennebunkport.
But all that day, she couldn’t get it out of her head. Who was that poor man? How badly was he hurt? Was he still alive?
“Arundel car crash leaves one person injured,” said the headline that appeared later that day on the Press Herald’s website.
The three-paragraph story reported that the victim had been transported to Maine Medical Center in Portland. But much to Ashley’s disappointment, police had not released a name.
So Ashley called Maine Medical Center. Sorry, they told her, we can’t give out that information.
Logging back onto her computer, Ashley called up the tiny story, clicked on “Add New Comment” and started writing.
“An exhausting, icy, 7am ride to work this morning set the scene for an unexpected, heartfelt experience..so i thought id share,” she began. “driving to work, tired from my sons bday party lastnight, i had noticed the roads were very iced over. having to go slow i was running a bit late as it was, not expecting what i was going to see around the corner, just a couple miles from work … “
The 427-word narrative recalled, in vivid detail, Ashley’s first-in-her-lifetime experience. Checking back a day or two later, she saw no response and figured, “Oh well, so much for that ….”
It turns out that Jim suffered a mild concussion and various bumps and bruises, but was treated at Maine Medical Center’s emergency room and released.
Several days later, his wife came home from work — at York County Community College, of all places — and told him her boss had seen a story about his accident in the newspaper.
Jim fired up his computer and sure enough, there it was. Then, much to his surprise, he got to the story-behind-the-story by someone identified only as “aecast.”
It was all news to Jim — he couldn’t even remember the ambulance crew. Nonetheless, he quickly clicked on “Add New Comment” and thanked her — whoever she was — for “being there for me.”
Last week, I tracked down Jim and Ashley to see if a reunion might be in order here.
“Of course I’d love to meet him!” Ashley replied.
Ditto for Jim.
“What do you say to somebody who has done that for you when they could have kept on going — except thank you,” he said. “I’d like to buy her coffee or lunch sometime.”
Actually, he went one better. Friday afternoon, as Ashley sat inside Dunkin’ Donuts in Kennebunk recounting her side of the story, in walked Jim with a bouquet of roses.
“Oh my God!” Ashley said, jumping up to give him a hug.
“I’m so glad you wrote that thing on the website,” Jim said, gingerly settling into his chair. “I never would have known anything about you.”
Now Jim knows that just over a month ago, Ashley slid off the road herself and into a field with Ayden and Ryan in the car. Nobody stopped to see if they were all right.
Jim also knows that Ashley’s two boys, after hearing what she did for him, are running around saying, “Our mom’s a hero!”
“I think you are, too,” Jim said with a smile.
Ashley won’t hear a word of it.
“It’s what you’re supposed to do!” she insisted. “How could you not? How could you see something like that and not care?”
Great question. Anyone care to comment?
Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at: