Heroes Among Us

June 10, 1995

We want to protect our children, keep them safe and well. But should they be in a terrible accident, please let someone like Richard Dudley happen by.

Mr. Dudley was the Federal Express courier from Dover, Del., who saw 8-year-old Aaron Thompson and a friend tumble off a motorized dirt bike near the boys' Queenstown home. The spokes of the motorbike had sliced off Aaron's arm below the elbow.

Mr. Dudley tried to comfort the screaming boy, and wrapped the stub of what remained of his left arm in a work shirt, to stanch the flow of blood.

"Am I going to die?" the boy asked. The other youth ran for help. PTC Emergency workers from the Kent Island station of the Queen Anne's County Fire Department responded within minutes and packed the severed limb in ice. A state medevac helicopter landed and whisked the boy and the arm to the Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore, 42 minutes after the accident.

Physicians say Aaron has a good chance of regaining full use of his arm, thanks to his age and the timely response and cool resolve of his rescuers. Mr. Dudley, who has two children of his own, said simply, "I just wanted to do the right thing for that little boy." His recalled his Air Force training. Any notion of being sued for doing the wrong thing, a thought that wouldn't be so outrageous in these litigious times, quickly dissipated from his mind.

The Good Samaritans and professionals who ministered to the terrified youth provided some catharsis for the rest of us. After a dismaying diet of news about a 911 operator hanging up on a beaten teen-ager in Baltimore County; about visiting police officers cavorting naked in Washington; about passersby too fearful to step in when they see someone being victimized by street crime, we crave stories about heroes and precision rescues, whether in Bosnia or in our backyard.

Mr. Dudley, the police and rescue workers not only saved Aaron Thompson's life but enhanced the chance he will make a complete recovery. They also helped restore faith that good people will respond in great ways when called upon.

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