Heroes Among Us

A 2-million-mile safe driver, Canton, N.C., trucker David Fisher was a credit to his profession. Before each trip he supervised the loading of his truck, refusing to accept freight unless it was loaded to his specifications. If tie-downs became worn, he insisted on new ones. “He always said, ‘I have to live with myself at the end of the day,'” his wife Dorothy recalls. “‘If I hurt someone because I was in a hurry, I couldn’t stand it.’ He was always so concerned about his fellow travelers.”

On April 20, 2002, Fisher paid the ultimate price for his concern. He was heading home on I-40 with a full flatbed of steel when a car struck his trailer. Swerving to avoid entrapping the car, Fisher headed toward the median and oncoming traffic before changing direction and slamming down a steep embankment. His action saved countless lives, witnesses say, but sacrificed his own. “He always told me he wouldn’t go across the median,” Dorothy says. If he did, “he couldn’t live with himself.”

The man who hit him, Michael Robert Harmon, should never have been on the road that day. Drunk and admittedly high on cocaine, he had nine counts of DUI on his record and was driving on a suspended license.

David’s family and friends gave him a hero’s funeral. Seven of his trucker friends drove their big rigs in the funeral procession and gave a 21 air-horn salute at the graveside service. His gravestone bears a replica of his truck, with his handle “Diesel Smoke” and the words “Hero David” etched alongside.

Dorothy finds some comfort in the work she does with various anti-drunk driving organizations. A tireless advocate for tougher drunk driving laws, she tells David’s story before safety groups and at highway patrol meetings. “I’ve given it a lot of soul-searching,” she says, “and I just think they have to do jail time from the start.” For his role in David’s death, Harmon recently began serving an 11-year sentence.

But no amount of work fills the void left by David’s death. “What I miss more than anything are his calls,” Dorothy says. She keeps his cell phone nearby just to listen to the sound of his voice on the message. With her children she bought a star in the sky and named it Hero David. “We’ve looked at it through the telescope,” she says. “It’s one of the brightest stars.”

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Like that star, David Fisher’s legacy shines as an example of a life lived selflessly and with honor. As we travel our nation’s highways, it’s a comfort to know there are still Hero Davids among us.

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