Thursday, September 5, 2013

Trucker’s heroic sacrifice a lesson in the power of forgiveness

It’s difficult to refer to a situation where a trucker lost his life in an accident on the road as a “feel good story,” but stick with me for just a moment.

Truck driver David Warren Stone was hauling a load of building materials on U.S. Highway 301 Bypass near his home in Rocky Mount, N.C., on June 10, when he swerved to avoid a crash with a four-wheeler that pulled into the intersection while trying to make a right turn. Stone’s rig struck a bridge railing, causing the cab to slide down into a rain-swollen creek as the rest of the rig flipped over the rail. Stone lost his life.

The driver of the car, 16-year-old Jordan Anne Thomas, probably owes her life to Stone’s sacrifice. Her father, Eddie Thomas, has said as much.

“Mr. Stone is my hero. Because of his actions on June 10th, my daughter is still alive, and I’m thankful for that,” he said following a court hearing on Wednesday, according to a report from WRAL in Raleigh.

Almost as remarkable as Stone’s sacrifice is his sons’ willingness to forgive the victim, a young driver who made a mistake. The Stones asked only that she plead guilty to a charge of failing to yield, pay the fine, and accept responsibility for the crash. A misdemeanor charge of death by motor vehicle was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

“There are two good families here, and the situation was a bad situation,” Chris Stone said in the WRAL report.


The moving display brought tears to the eyes of the judge even, who knew Eddie Thomas from Thomas’ days as a state trooper. The Stone family had said they wanted Judge John Covolo to preside over the case, despite the conflict of interest.

Whether you’re a trucker, or a four-wheel driver, we’ve all had our share of close calls on the road. Some have ended in tragedy. What makes this story so amazing is that in the face of tragedy, in the face of a flagrant example of “bad things happening to good people,” the good people were able to step up and make the most out of a terrible situation.

Stone’s family does not seem to be bitter about the loss, at least not toward the young driver. The girl’s family recognizes the sacrifice Stone made, that he traded his own life for their daughter’s. They appear to be grateful. And Thomas herself went to court and accepted responsibility for her actions. Everybody can move forward with the healing process.

I know the “rose” beat is the bailiwick of my “Land Line Now” colleague Terry Scruton, but I feel like we should all be sending these families a rose or two. Stone, for his sacrifice; his sons, for their willingness to forgive; the Thomas family, for its gratitude; and Jordan Thomas, for being accountable. No doubt she’s learned some valuable lessons, not the least of which is the importance of defensive driving.

Hopefully we can all learn to follow the examples set by both of these families, when we’re confronted with our own tragedies.