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A stranger jumped into action when a 92-year-old started to get dragged by a car

Ben Gomes and his mom Thomasinha.
Ben Gomes
Ben Gomes and his mom Thomasinha.

This story is part of the My Unsung Hero series, from the Hidden Brain team. It features stories of people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else.


A few years ago, Ben Gomes received an upsetting call at work. The caller told him that his 92-year-old mother, Thomasinha, was being rushed to the hospital after she had been "dragged by a car" in the street. He raced to the hospital to see her.

"I was terrified of what might have happened to her," Gomes recalled. "She is an old lady, and quite fragile to begin with. So the notion that she might be dragged by a car was just completely horrifying to me."

Gomes soon learned the details of what had happened. Thomasinha sometimes received rides from volunteer drivers to her local senior center. On that day, when she got out of the car, one of the long drawstring cords on her jacket got caught in the door as she closed it. The driver didn't see her, and began to drive away, dragging Thomasinha along.

"And she started running alongside the car, knocking on the door, on the window of the car, to try and get the driver's attention," Gomes said.

Thomasinha was unable to extract the drawstring cords, and she could not get the driver to see her. That's when her unsung hero arrived.

"It seems like somebody saw her from across the street and ran across the street, got in front of the car, and banged on the hood of the car to stop the driver," Gomes said.

At this point she fell, and Gomes believes this is when she broke her hip — a serious injury for a woman in her 90s.

"I'm so incredibly grateful that I was not greeted by the sight that I so feared when I went to the hospital. ... It's just too horrifying for me to think of," Gomes said.

Thomasinha recently celebrated her 96th birthday with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Today, when her son reflects back on this stranger's act of heroism, he says it's hard to capture the depth of his appreciation.

"We say words like 'thank you' all the time, to the point where they don't necessarily encompass what this kind of gratitude might mean," Gomes said. "But I don't know if I'd have better words to say than 'Thank you for what you did for my mother and for what you did for me.'"

My Unsung Hero is also a podcast — new episodes are released every Tuesday. To share the story of your unsung hero with the Hidden Brain team, record a voice memo on your phone and send it to myunsunghero@hiddenbrain.org.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laura Kwerel
Autumn Barnes