A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
By all accounts, Darryl Putz, 46, of Manchester, Iowa, is just an “ordinary man.” He loves football and baseball, he’s been happily married to the same woman for 14 years, and he’s worked at Lewis Bins+, of Manchester, for the past twenty years.
On December 19, 2007, his life took an unexpected twist: That morning, Putz drove to Cedar Rapids for some Christmas shopping. Driving conditions were somewhat hazardous, with a dense fog reducing visibility to around 100 feet. As a result, two semi-trucks collided at the intersection of Highway 13 and county road D-47, just south of Ryan. Suddenly, another semi, driven by 46-year-old Harold Minor Jr., of Lebanon, Tennessee, slammed into one of the semi-trucks. The cab of his truck exploded on impact and left Minor trapped between the steering wheel and his seat.
At that moment, Putz – who turned off of Highway 13 to avoid the crash – jumped out of his van and raced to see if anyone needed help. In the midst of the chaos, he had the presence of mind to call his wife, who was about two miles behind him, and ask her to slow traffic and phone 911.
Putz reached Minor’s truck where flames were shooting up from the dashboard and the floor of the cab. He managed to smother the flames with a nearby blanket so that he could free Minor and pull him out of the wreckage. Once free, Putz pulled Minor to the side of the road and finished putting out the fire on Minor’s feet and legs. Less than two minutes later, the entire cab was engulfed in fire.
Minor was rushed to the University of Iowa Hospitals, where he was listed with third-degree burns covering 40 percent of his body, but he survived thanks to Putz’ quick response.
“Putz’ gut reaction made him a hero,” said Diamond Christiana, Minor’s fiancée. "He put his own life in danger to save Harold’s.”1
“In my wildest dreams, I never thought that I would experience anything like this,” said Putz. “It was as if I was on autopilot the entire time. I didn’t even stop to think when I saw the accident. My adrenaline was pumping, and I just reacted.”
1The Cedar Rapids Gazette, December 26, 2007.