Tell Tucker Observer – Community banded together to make sure our neighbor was safe

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Dear Tucker Observer,

On Friday, Feb. 18 around 5 p.m., my son and I were driving east on LaVista Road near the Tucker Recreation Center when a car, very slowly mind you, drove into oncoming traffic. Because it was slow, everyone was able to stop in time and the car slowly crashed into a mailbox where it stopped. From the look of it, no one was in the car but a man was running after the car and then began banging on the windows. It was in that moment that I realized someone was in the car and they were slumped over and something was seriously wrong.

I looked back at my son, who is six, and said, “Mommy is going to help. You must stay here. Do not get out of this car for absolutely any reason, do you understand me?” and I heard a very scared but solid “yes ma’am” from the back seat and then I bolted out the car. I wasn’t the only one who realized something was wrong. A van in front of me had also stopped, a man and a woman exited it and were running towards the car – a black car was to my right and woman came running from that as well. A group of us converged.

The man from the van who helped break the back window – he didn’t speak perfect English I don’t think, but it didn’t matter. Another person who I initially saw was still banging on her door to get the driver to wake up. Nancy, an incredible woman, had a glass hammer thing. She handed it to the man who was trying to break the window and in a few seconds, he had busted in. I was the only one small enough to get in the back window. They helped me crawl in to get the car unlocked. The side window might have been better, but we were moving fast. It didn’t matter. One of them held my hoodie down, so the glass wouldn’t cut my back as I crawled in.

At some point before I’d crawled in, I’d dialed 911. I remember because the first time it rang, the sound was weird. I had to hang up and dial again. The second time, I was put on hold. I handed someone my phone – I don’t remember who – right before I crawled in the car. By the time I got out of the car and the phone was handed back to me and I was talking to an operator and the woman from the van was trying to talk to the woman in the driver of the crashed car. I told 911 the address of the mailbox she had hit. Over the course of the next 12 minutes, the group worked together to make sure she was alive. She was. But she couldn’t speak.

At some point, the family in the van made sure 911 was on the way and moved on. I didn’t catch their names. I wish I had. The man who banged on the windows first and who helped me crawl in? He eventually moved on too. And that’s good – too many people crowding around wouldn’t have worked. Nancy and I stayed until the ambulance arrived. But eventually, they asked us to move on as well.

There are a few things I want to let the community know. The first is that when it matters most, the community banded together to make sure our neighbor was safe. We broke open a window, communicated through language barriers and watched out for each other’s children (Nancy actually moved my car out of the way with my son in it and calmed him down) all while having huge adrenaline rushes and being scared out of our minds.

Secondly, DeKalb County should be ashamed of itself. It took 12 minutes from the first phone call to the first fire truck to arrive? It took so long, I actually called a second time. Between the weird ringing and static when first calling to being put on hold; I was astounded. I’m privileged enough to not need services all that regularly, I do not remember the last time I called 911. What I do know is that if this had been a stroke or an overdose, that amount of time could have killed her.

Lastly, at some point, the driver’s phone started ringing. Nancy picked up, and we spoke to the driver’s best friend. I wrote down the number in my phone and I called that friend on Monday the 21st – it turns out the driver had some sort of seizure. She’s in the hospital undergoing surgery today, but it looks like she’ll be ok.

I don’t know who the family is that was in the van or the man who banged on the windows. But if you know them or you are them – please let the editor know. I’d like to buy you a cup of coffee. I’m proud of the team that formed at that moment. Proud of my community. Thankful for all who showed up.

All the best,

Rev. Hannah Olan

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