Making the last few dedicated runs of a 36-year trucking career before retiring should be a fairly simple task. Put in your miles, say your goodbyes to people along your route and start enjoying a less stressful life. That should be the case – unless your name is Ron Lantz.
He is the trucker who called authorities after spotting the car belonging to the suspected Washington, D.C., area snipers, and he has been living in a whirlwind since Oct. 24 when he pulled his tractor-trailer into a rest stop along westbound I-70 near Frederick, Md.
The 61-year-old Bass Transportation driver called 911 to report a blue 1990 Chevy Caprice in which John Allen Muhammad, 41, and John Lee Malvo, 17, were sleeping. He had heard the description of the car on the Truckin’ Bozo radio show.
Lantz and another trucker used their tractor-trailers to block the exit ramp leading out the
rest area until law enforcement officers showed up to arrest the two men who are suspected of killing 10 people during a three-week shooting spree.
The honors just keep coming. City officials in his hometown of Ludlow, Ky., declared Oct. 30 Ron Lantz Day. The day before he was given the keys to the city of Wilmington, Del. He’s been recognized by trucking associations, and he has also appeared on several national news shows.
According to published reports, Lantz’s unlisted home phone has rung off the hook, and he has turned off his cell phone (although he did turn it back on to take a call from President Bush).
A spokesperson at Bass Transportation says, “Everyone wants Ron Lantz.” I know from experience that it is not easy to reach the trucking industry’s favorite son. Lantz, who others describe as a quiet, ordinary, hard-working man, has learned what its like to have celebrity status suddenly bestowed upon him. It can be overwhelming.
Lantz has been labeled an American hero – a moniker that he has repeatedly downplayed. “I’m no hero,” he said. “I don’t want anybody to think I’m a hero. Because I just done what I thought had to be done.”
But heroes are rarely people who set out to do something extraordinary. They are usually people who do the right thing at the right time without worrying about the consequences. And in the case of Lantz and the unidentified trucker who helped block the exit ramp, the consequences could have been deadly if the suspects had decided to make a run for it.
Yes, like it or not, Lantz is a hero in the eyes of the public. Although he is reported to be the second person to alert authorities concerning the suspects’ location, Lantz didn’t simply make a phone call and leave. He took additional action by obeying a request from law enforcement to help block the rest area’s exit route.
Outreach programs like the American Trucking Associations’ Highway Watch work. Lantz is proof of that.
There has been some controversy as to the $500,000 in reward money that was offered to the person or persons who provided information leading to the capture of Muhammad and Malvo. Personally, I think Lantz – who stated he would give at least half of any money he receives to the shooting victims’ families – deserves part of it. He was instrumental in the capture.
Surprisingly, the sniper case has another trucking angle. The state of Alabama plans to prosecute Muhammad and Malvo for the shooting death of state-run liquor store clerk Claudine Parker in September. Parker’s co-worker Kellie Adams was also shot in the neck and seriously wounded.
Mrs. Adams and her husband Lyn Adams, a company driver, were featured earlier this year in Truckers News for their political ambitions. Kellie ran for revenue commissioner of Montgomery County, Ala., and her husband ran for state lieutenant governor. The Libertarian candidates didn’t pull out of the election despite Mrs. Adams’ struggle to recover from her injuries, but both lost their respective races in the November elections.
Like Lantz for his willingness to get involved, the Adamses are to be commended for their determination not to let adversity stand in their way.
Ron Lantz and Lyn and Kellie Adams prove that the true definition of heroism lies within their character and unrelenting spirit.