Mark Fetter of Pasadena never thought of himself as a knight in shining armor.
But Sunday evening, on a twisting Pennsylvania road, hegot a chance to perform a noble deed: He rescued 41 Southern ladies from possible disaster.
The women were traveling back to Richmond, Va., after a bus trip to the shopping outlet mecca of Reading, Pa., when their bus ran out of fuel on a dangerous curve south of York, Pa.
There were no flares or flashlights on the bus. The emergency flashers didn't work. Thebus driver left to find a telephone. Dusk fell.
It wasn't until atractor-trailer swinging around the corner in the dark sideswiped the bus, knocking off the side mirror, that 54-year-old Alice Ellis started feeling frightened.
"When the truck hit us, I got real nervous," says Ellis, a businesswoman from Richmond.
She realized another truck could come around the corner and rear-end the bus. "I was so angry at the bus driver for letting us run out of gas, and I was scared to death."
A tow truck stopped, but the driver didn't have any flares, either.
Several of the stranded passengers were unsuccessfully trying to flag down passing cars, when help arrived in the person of Fetter.
"These ladies were on the side of the road trying to wave down help, so I helped," says Fetter, a 33-year-old contracting officer for the Defense Department at Fort Meade.
"They look trapped and like they were in Panicsville."
Fetter pulled over "in a dangerous spot in front of the bus," Ellis says, and walked back to help them. It was a long errand of mercy; he stayed for several hours.
The women's Good Samaritan put out flares that he always carries inhis car; then he kept them company.
"I don't mind stopping to help anybody if they need help," says Fetter.
"It's not anything I'd brag about. I just recall being stuck once, and I would hope other people would stop, too. I think of my son (who is 11), anybody that needed help. That's just me."
One woman walked half a mile down the highway and waved traffic out of the bus' lane. Fetter stayed behind the bus and waved traffic around it so the bus didn't get hit a secondtime.
"This young man was an excellent Samaritan," Ellis says. "He never left us for one minute. If he hadn't stopped and put out the flares, we could easily have been killed."
The bus had run out of gas, and the diesel engine had to be pumped before it would start. Another passenger, Linda Lunsford, experienced a near-miss when her jacket caught fire from the flare she was waving.
Finally a police officer came, and Fetter left the women in good hands. A wrecker eventually arrived to start the bus, and the women arrived home at 3 a.m.
"You don't realize how much we appreciate this man," says Ellis, who called local newspapers about the incident. "For him to stop and take his time like that . . . You always hear about bad things happening, but we think the citizens of Pasadena are good people!"
Ellis and her friends wanted to reimburse the young man for his help, but Fetter declined, which made the favor seem even nicer, Ellis says.
"You know how people say, 'When you break down and there's nobody to help, you look around and an angel from heaven falls' "?" she adds. "That's how I feel about this guy."