Timothy Pilz counted the cars that passed an elderly woman lying face-down on Elm Street in Biddeford before he stopped to help her.

There were seven, he said.

“Most people don’t want to get involved,” the 26-year-old custodian said, speculating about why the drivers didn’t stop to help. Pilz, who lives in Portland, just isn’t wired that way.

“There’s no way I could drive by her,” he said.

That makes Pilz the exception – even, by some standards, a hero. Called the “bystander effect,” there’s a well-documented phenomenon that the more people who do nothing to help in an emergency, the less likely anyone will step up to do anything.

It turned out that the woman, who was struck by the side-view mirror of a passing car on that early November morning last year, was Sister Viola Lausier, a nun walking from the convent to her job at Saint Andre Home, a social services agency for pregnant women.


Talk about karma.

Although Lausier soon forgave the driver, who kept going and has not been found by police, Pilz hasn’t left her prayers.

“I always say, ‘God, thank you for sending him,’ because he’s the one that really helped me,” said the 90-year-old nun, who suffered a broken arm, lacerated liver and a collapsed lung, among other injuries.

Lausier has mostly recovered, though she lost a lot of strength and still has a hard time chewing, she said. As a result, she’s cut down on her hours as the finance director at Saint Andre Home and no longer works weekends.

Pilz said he kept track of Lausier’s health through a former co-worker who went to church with nuns who knew her. But he changed jobs several months ago and hasn’t heard anything since.

Still, he thinks about her every time he drives down Elm Street and when it’s raining, as it was that morning. Pilz said he didn’t like the recognition he received afterward, but even that wouldn’t keep him from stepping in to help again. He can’t imagine a situation in which he would do anything differently.

“I would do it 100 times over,” he said.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: