An unanticipated breakdown

I came to a stop at the gate, showed the security guard my identification, waited for him to scan it and when given the okay, attempted to pull forward onto base.

‘Attempted’ is the key word there. My car wouldn’t move.

I quickly looked down to make sure my vehicle was in drive. It was. It also had a check engine light on and a bright-red battery light that had just appeared.

My car wasn’t going anywhere.

As my mind raced frantically, I looked back up to the security guard and told him my car wouldn’t work.

“Should I put it in neutral?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said without hesitation. “I’ll push you around that barrier.”

And so he did.

Matthew Steiner, state security guard for the 115th Fighter Wing, quickly moved to the back of my car and pushed me to safety.

I remained seated in the driver’s seat, turning my steering wheel without power steering, and racing ideas through my mind of what step to take next.

Call a tow truck. That was my only plan, but that plan would cost a fortune…extra money I didn’t have in my bank account.

Once in park, Steiner walked up to my window. He asked me to restart my car, to see if it would run again.

Prayers and hope and more prayers running through my head, I turned the car off, pulled out the key, took a breath, put the key back in and turned it.

To my surprise, it started!

I immediately thanked him, made him aware that I already had a car appointment scheduled for that morning, and let him know I’d drive it straight to the dealership.

He said that sounded good, but to hang on. He wanted someone to follow me to make sure I got there safely.

To my luck, Master Sgt. Courtney Krisher had already pulled up beside me. Steiner looked to her and asked if she could follow me to the dealership. Without hesitation, she said yes. With a mechanic dad, she too knew following me would be the smart move. We were off.

My drive to the dealership was a short drive, but it felt like an eternity. With each passing stoplight, I hoped and prayed my car would keep running until I got there.

Ten minutes later I pulled into a parking spot at the dealership service center. I was safe and sound.

I turned my car off and got out to thank Krisher for following me and ensuring my safe arrival. She asked if I needed a ride back to base, but I let her know I wanted to wait for the dealership to open so I could explain the problems to them in person.

She headed back to work and I sat there watching the clock, waiting for the service center to open and my appointment time to arrive.

At 7:15 am, I pulled through the big garage doors, handed over my keys, explained the car problems to the technician, and walked away knowing my car was in good hands.

A few hours later, with a much smaller service bill than I was anticipating, the dealership had my car running like new!

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In times like these, I want to remind you how amazing the world we live in truly is. The events out there are heightened more than anything we’ve ever experienced in our lifetimes. But, even in these times of uncertainty and constant change, the hearts of the people we get the opportunity to live our lives around are bigger than ever.

Prior to this incident, I was just another Airman driving through the gate. Another ID card to scan. But Steiner didn’t make me feel that way. He saw I was in distress, he quickly acted by pushing my car out of the way, and instead of leaving me to figure out my next step, he offered reassurance and guidance, ensuring my safety the entire time. A guy I had no clue existed 24-hours earlier, was there to lift my spirits during a time I needed it the most.

We may be physically and socially distanced, but that distance has somehow brought us all closer together.

This virus has caused an unanticipated breakdown in our lives, but it has opened doors to even more opportunity. Now’s your chance to call your grandparents, offer a listening ear to your Facebook friends, send an email of encouragement to your co-workers, and enjoy the time you have with your family. If you do all that, if you strive to be a better person and show up in others’ lives the way Steiner showed up in mine, I promise you when we come out of this, we’ll be stronger than we’ve ever been before.

Photo taken by Lee Edward

About Tech. Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode

Tech. Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode is a photojournalist for the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison, Wisconsin.