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He was stranded after a serious car accident. Then an old white pickup pulled over

Rick Mangnall remembers the time he was helped after a serious car accident by two Hispanic men in an old white pickup track.
Rick Mangnall
Rick Mangnall remembers the time he was helped after a serious car accident by two Hispanic men in an old white pickup track.

This story is part of the My Unsung Hero series, from the Hidden Brain team. It features stories of people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else.

One day in the summer of 2008, Rick Mangnall was making the long commute from his home in the remote mountains of California to his teaching job at a local community college. The drive took him down a road that was flanked on both sides by large slabs of granite rock.

All of a sudden, a scorpion that had gotten into his clothes crawled out and stung him on the back. When he tried to smash it, he accidentally yanked the steering wheel, down and to the right.

"And I hit that rock wall," Mangnall said.

Mangnall's Honda Civic went airborne after the impact.

"I can feel it now," he said. "Feeling the car flip in the air. Feeling being upside down in my seatbelt," he said.

He looked out the window; the blue SUV that had been driving right behind him zipped by, not stopping. He still remembers its shiny blue wheels. Eventually he kicked out what was left of the window and crawled out of his car, into the middle of the road. He called 911 and waited, in a daze.

That's when an old white Ford pickup truck going the other direction pulled over.

"Two Hispanic guys jumped out," Mangnall remembered. "And one of them directed the other one to go up around the corner of the road to slow traffic down, and direct it around me."

The first mancame across the street, towards him.

Mangnall said the man spoke just a few words to him, in broken English. He doesn't recall what the man said but he'll never forget his gesture of comfort.

"He put his hand on my shoulder, " Mangnall remembered. "It's very, very compassionate."

Mangnall tried to tell the man he could leave. But he refused to go.

"He just stood with me," Mangnall said. "And he stood there with me for 20 minutes, maybe. We didn't have any conversation. But when the highway patrol showed up, I looked up and this fellow was gone. The truck was gone. They had just melted away."

Looking back, more than 15 years later, Mangnall sometimes thinks about the first car that drove by, the blue SUV with the shiny wheels. It still shocks him.

"But those two guys ... helped me," Mangnall said. "I wish I had thanked him. Yeah, I wish I had thanked him."

My Unsung Hero is also a podcast — new episodes are released every Tuesday. To share the story of your unsung hero with the Hidden Brain team, record a voice memo on your phone and send it to myunsunghero@hiddenbrain.org.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Laura Kwerel
[Copyright 2024 NPR]