Kamilah Kashanie (KK): All season, we’ve been listening to stories from people who — despite challenges — have found ways to begin again.
Shotzy Harrison (SH): I showed you the pictures of my house, you know here’s the basement I fixed up for you and you said, “I’m going to be living like a king.”
TKM: I feel like we’re reconnected.
Charles McClure: Yeah, I think so too. I mean, we talk pretty much every week.
Jade Rone: I want to thank you for everything. Because if you would not have pushed me, I don’t think I would be anywhere near where I am right now.
KK: It’s the StoryCorps podcast from NPR. I’m Kamilah Kashanie.
In this week’s episode, how worlds that quite literally collided led to unexpected friendships and new career paths.
Our first story takes us back to 1984. Jeff Wilson had just started his junior year at Dublin high school in California, and was driving himself to class.
Jeff Wilson (JW): I had my uncle’s car, which was a 1960 Chevy Impala. The ventilation wasn’t that great in it, and it was kind of a moist morning. The windows were fogged and the sun was shining right into it. I didn’t see anybody in the crosswalk. I felt a thud and I was like, “What?” and I slammed the brakes. And I saw something fly over the hood of my car.
KK: That “something” was actually one of Jeff’s classmates — a freshman named Tammie Baird.
She survived, but that accident stuck with Jeff for the next 30 years; until 2015, when he sat down for StoryCorps with Tammie.
They had exchanged a couple of messages beforehand but this was their first time meeting in person since high school.
JW: I saw you lying there and I pulled over and, you know, got out and you were unconscious. I was absolutely sure that I had killed you. And then for a few days after that I really did not want to live. I just felt like dirt. But I called to find out how you were, and I remember speaking with your dad. And he could have just been irate and angry and I was prepared for that because I felt that’s what I deserved. But I told him how sorry I was and he said, ’I know what you’re going through because I went through that same thing.’ When he was about my age, he’d hit a child that had run into the street after a ball and got really hurt. He said that he forgave me, and I’m forever grateful for that.
TB: I’m glad that that day he answered the phone because he was just so kind, and he didn’t hold grudges. I’m surprised, honestly, he didn’t make you come over for dinner.
JW: Now, I didn’t know you when I hit you.
TB: Right, and then after the accident you were avoiding me in the hallways.
JW: If I saw you I’d be like, ‘Oh God that’s the person I hit. I don’t want to deal with this.’
TB: So did you think it was crazy when 20-something years later, out of the blue I just send you this email?
JW: Yeah. I opened it up and the first thing you said is, ’You may have been the first person to hit me with your car but you weren’t the last.’
TB: Yeah. [Laughs] I became a stunt woman… and now what I’m known for in my industry is car hits.
<SOUND FROM TV SHOW>
KK: That’s the sound of Tammie getting hit by a car on NCIS Los Angeles. You may have seen her do similar stunts on shows like Rebel, American Horror Story, and Modern Family.
TB: I just really felt like I had to let you know that. [Laughs]
JW: I’m so glad you did. Do you think that the initial accident had any influence on your career?
TB: I do think that it helped me. You know, people will say things like wow, you do car hits. How did you get so good at it? I’m like “Oh, well, this guy hit me my freshman year walking to school”. After the accident, I pretty much bounced back really quick, no pun intended. I am pretty good at just kind of rolling with the punches, again, no pun intended.
JW: The fact that you made something good out of it? It just amazes me. It really does and it’s just kind of this beautiful symmetry because I’m a surgical technician, and I do a lot of orthopedic surgery. So, I see a lot of people that come in from car accidents. And it gives me a great deal of satisfaction feeling like I’m helping people. I’m putting people back together.
TB: That’s awesome.
JW: But I’m, you know, forever sorry.
TB: But I hope now you won’t be. We don’t know where our paths are going to lead us. And so who knows if somehow our paths crossed for whatever reason to make us be where we are today.
JW: It’s spectacular to be able to make this connection after so many years. It really blows me away.
KK: That’s Jeff Wilson with his former classmate Tammie Baird at StoryCorps in San Francisco.
After their interview, they actually went back to the cross walk where the accident happened. And it turns out, other people were hit there too; so the city installed a couple of stop signs at the intersection to help prevent accidents.
Tammie also gave Jeff a press photo of her being hit by a car. She even signed it. “Dear Jeff, thank you for being my first.” You can see it on our website, storycorps.org.
Our next story comes from Brooklyn, New York, where Dorothy Lindsay raised 4 kids.
During the summers, they would play outside a lot, and one day, her 7-year-old son, Bryan, was out riding his bike.
Dorothy Lindsay (DL): I remember it being very hot, June 29th 1991. We were actually inside having lunch. And we heard this bang, just like a collision. And instinctively, I knew something that happened out there involved me.
I jumped up from the table and I ran outside only to find Bryan laying face down on the curb. I was screaming hysterically, holding Bryan, and then I remember looking up and seeing paramedics behind me. And that was like an angel from God.
KK: After the break, how Dororthy and Bryan reunited with that angel.
Stay with us.
Rowen Allen (RA): My name is Rowan Allen. I’m a paramedic with the fire department for the last almost 25 years.
Bryan Lindsay (BL): My name is Bryan Lindsay. I am 29 years old. And my relationship to Rowan is I’m his friend and he’s the paramedic that saved my life.
KK: In the summer of 1991, Bryan was just 7 years old. He was riding his bike outside his house when he was hit by a van and almost killed.
At the time, Rowan was a brand new medic.
RA: When the call came in, it was just before my shift ended that day. The first instinct was, oh man, right before we get off. And then the dispatcher comes back on the air and he says, ‘child struck’. That just changes everything. And luckily we were just a couple blocks away.
You had a massive dent on your forehead. And I remember your mother asking me in the ambulance, ‘is he going to be alright?’ And I played it down. And I said to her, ‘Oh, just a little bump on the head’. But to this day, when I start thinking about the details, I get choked up.
My partners and I would come to the hospital every chance we got and check in on you. Even after you came out of the hospital and you were getting better, we used to come by the house. We would drive by.
BL: Yeah. It was hard to adjust. The kids would call me helmet head because I would have a helmet on my head. And, uh, I remember crying to the doctor saying I don’t want to go to school. [Laughs]. He said, “Oh don’t worry, you know, all the ladies are gonna love your helmet.” But it was the complete opposite. [Laughs] It was torture for those years.
RA: I had no contact with you guys for a very long time. But one day we brought a patient into the hospital, and I heard this lady’s voice. I didn’t see her. I just heard the voice, and it stopped me dead in my tracks. And so I backed up and I looked in the room, and there was this little short nurse. It was your mother. And she saw me. We were hugging up real tight. And she’s crying, and I’m bawling. And she said “Brian’s gonna be graduating. And I want you to come as a surprise”. And when I showed up that day, when I rang the bell — did she tell you to open the door?
BL: Yeah she told me to open the door, yeah.
RA: She set you up [laughs]
BL: She set me up good [laughs]
BL: …You know, just to be here with you is more than I could ever ask. And it’s a privilege to be around you. I really sincerely thank you.
RA: I appreciate that, Bryan. I mean to develop this kind of a relationship and this kind of bond, I dont — I can’t put it into words. But this is what makes me do what I do. I feel so good.
That’s Rowan Allen speaking with Bryan Lindsay.
That conversation was recorded back in 2013, so we recently asked Rowan if he’d like to have another one — this time with Bryan’s mom, Dorothy…
At the time of Bryan’s accident, she was working as a banker.
DL: It’s interesting because when I was a little girl, my dad used to tell me, “You’re going to be a nurse.’ And I used to say in my mind, ‘Really? I don’t want to be a nurse.’
But when this accident happened, I said maybe this is God’s way of saying, ‘You know, your father was right. You should’ve been a nurse, you see?’ [Laughs]
RA: You are, for me, the perfect example of what a nurse should be and that’s from the bottom of my heart.
DL: Aw, thank you so much. Well, I have to say, you were part of that inspiration. Of course, my father was the foundation there, but Bryan’s accident totally solidified that that was my calling.
I remember when he was in the ICU, and I was nervous. All the alarms were very intimidating and frightening for us. And you would explain what they meant so that we would have some type of understanding. That was so wonderful and I will continue to give my 100 percent to every family I interact with and hope that their experience is as wonderful as mine.
RA: That feels good. And now that I’m a nurse, we’re actually working in the same place, same unit.
DL: I so admire you as a professional, first and foremost, and as my brother in nursing. It takes good people to do good work and it shows in what you do.
RA: Thank you, dear. Knowing where Bryan came from, the road he had to go through and where he is today, that’s one of the crowning achievements of my career.
DL: I will never, ever stop thanking you.
RA: God put you guys in our path in a way that was very traumatic, but the outcome is something that we can both be proud about and I’m glad for that.
KK: That’s ER nurses Rowan Allen and Dorothy Lindsay for StoryCorps in Brooklyn, New York.
That’s all for this episode of the StoryCorps Podcast. It was produced by Janmaris Perez with Jasmyn Morris, who’s also our executive editor. Our story editor is Sylvie Lubow. Our technical director is Jarrett Floyd. Natsumi Ajisaka is our fact checker. Special thanks to Katie Simon, Eve Claxton, and Yosmay del Mazo.
To check out what music we used in the episode, head to StoryCorps.org. While you’re there you can also see original artwork created by Rosalyn Yoon.
For the StoryCorps podcast, I’m Kamilah Kashanie. Catch you next week.