More than 180 trucks and other vehicles line up to raise $9,000 for the truckers’ memorial
to be built in Queensland, Australia.
Here in the United States, we mourn the loss of truckers killed in accidents every year. But in the Australian Outback, where residents of farflung towns in a vast land of harsh environmental extremes rely on trucks to bring their necessary supplies, trucking is equally important and equally dangerous.
Inspired by the losses of friends and family, an Australian woman with close ties to her country’s trucking industry decided it was time to erect a memorial to the drivers who die every year driving normal 18-wheelers or hauling up to six trailers in “road trains” through the huge Australian wilderness.
Kathy White, a native of Gatton in the state of Queensland, Australia., organized a convoy in May to raise money for the project. More than 180 truckers participated as well as cars, motorcycles, buses and vintage cars and trucks. Spectators lined the highway.
“The atmosphere was very emotional and very close. Everyone loved the day as it was a day for truck drivers to remember their mates,” White says. “Most trucks had banners on them remembering their departed fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, grandparents and mates. It was very moving.”
Located in the Lockyer Valley in southeast Queensland, Gatton is one of Queensland’s earliest settlements, known for its scenic backdrop of the Great Dividing Range. It encompasses some of the richest farming land in Australia, making it a busy trucking route.
White’s husband Garry, a 31-year veteran trucker, drives a double fuel tanker on the New South Wales-Queensland route.
The deaths of many friends in trucking accidents are what inspired White to begin planning the memorial. “I have wanted to build a memorial wall for over 18 years, but I lived in out Outback and had no phones or any modern things to be able to do it,” she says.
White later found out about an existing truckers’ memorial in Tarcutta, in the state of New South Wales, and longed to visit, but she could not afford the trip. New South Wales is the adjoining state, but each Australian state is the size of several U.S. states. Over the years, White realized there were a lot of other people in Queensland who could not afford to go to the Tarcutta memorial.
White was hit with a series of hardships around Christmas 2002. She lost both her mother and her father-in-law within two days, and her nephew was diagnosed with cancer with only a few months to live.
Then, she says, “Something inside of me said, ‘Well, it is time to build a memorial wall.’ I decided distance was the main factor in the decision as truck drivers come from all parts of Australia.”
After that, White visited the local council for help, and they were receptive to her idea. It took her a year to design the plans for the memorial, and she started fundraising after suffering one more setback, the death of her father on Christmas Day 2003.
She then got herself together and decided to have the convoy. She planned it all on her own but luckily met others interested in the cause who pitched in on the day of the event.
White says the convoy was a success, raising $9,000 for the memorial. She is up to $25,000, but she must still raise another $55,000 for the project. She says she hopes to raise even more at next year’s convoy and also to begin construction on the first phase of the wall in the next few months.
Memorial sponsors include Mack Trucks, Kenworth Trucks, Nolans Interstate Transport, Lindsay Bros. Transport, Queensland Trucking Association and RoadTrains Australia, among others. White says hundreds more have donated money, and she has had many offers to help build the wall as well.
White says she has 120 trucker names to date to be memorialized on the wall, most of which have come in on their own. “They are just coming in daily,” she says. “It is amazing.”
The memorial will be called “Lights on the Hill,” after a famous song about trucking by Slim Dusty, a famous Australian country singer who died earlier this year.
The wall will be the shape of a silhouetted truck viewed from the front, made of sandstone and brown granite. Standing six feet high and 20 feet wide, the names of drivers and passengers killed in trucking accidents, as well as those in Australia’s trucking industry, will each be listed on brass plaques on the memorial.
At the front of the memorial will be a fountain, also in the shape of a silhouetted truck made of metal and driving across a bridge. Twin stacks on either side will have lights shining up on the memorial wall.
At the side of the memorial will be a life-size granite carving of Slim Dusty, looking up to the wall and singing his famous tune.
There will also be seating, flagpoles and a landscaped area overlooking a manmade lake with children’s play areas and barbecues, White says.
The memorial will be accessible from the highway. “The wall is being built in a park off the highway, so that families can go in peace to remember their loved ones,” White says.
“I have great respect for the trucking industry. When we lived in the Outback we had no food, clothing, supplies, et cetera unless a truck brought it for us,” she says. “So I realize without trucks, we would have nothing to live on anywhere in Australia.”
You can contact Kathy White at: Kathy White 246 Krugers Rd. Spring Creek, Queensland Australia 4343 or visit this site.
Midnight RescueDriving team works together to help injured motorist
The dust hadn’t even settled yet when truckers Matt Jorgensen and Bob Landis came upon an accident one midnight in Arkansas.
“I was looking up ahead of me,” says Jorgensen, who was driving at the time, “and saw dust in the oncoming traffic headlights. As I got closer, I saw all kinds of debris on the road, and then I caught a headlight on the right in the ditch below.”
Jorgenson, of Des Moines, Iowa, realized that if he had passed by just 10 seconds earlier, the car veering off the road would have hit him. He also realized that because of the light traffic, he would be the first person on the scene.
“It happened right in front of me,” he says. “I had to stop.”
As Jorgensen secured the rig and reported the accident on his CB, Landis, a former emergency medical technician from Hollywood, S.C., ran through the darkness in the direction of the headlights. The vehicle had flipped over several times and landed on all four wheels. The windshield had popped out and was lying on the road. Personal belongings were strewn everywhere, but the driver was still inside the vehicle. Landis began talking to the young man while Jorgensen hurried over with a flashlight and fire extinguisher.
“He was lucky he was wearing a seat belt,” Jorgensen says, “because he would have been ejected from that vehicle. Everything was all over the place: his clothes, pictures.”
Not knowing the extent of the driver’s injuries, Landis attempted to keep the young man still. He checked him for trauma and inspected the cut on his head. Then he and Jorgensen talked with him to keep him from going into shock.
“He knew who the president was, so we figured he was coherent,” Joregensen says, chuckling. “But the guy was shaken up and cold. Bob told him not to move his neck, but he wasn’t listening.”
The two truckers covered the man with a jacket, kept him awake and tried to keep him from moving too much as they waited for the paramedics to arrive. In the meantime, other truckers had pulled over and were helping move traffic and get debris out of the road.
Jorgensen and Landis received a Highway Angel lapel pin, certificate and patch for their efforts at the scene of the accident. Annett Holdings, Inc. also received a certificate for acknowledging these two Highway Angels in their midst.
Since its inception in August 1997, the Highway Angel program has recognized hundreds of drivers for the unusual kindness, courtesy and courage they have shown others while on the job.
Nominate a Highway Angel
Highway Angels recognition is awarded for a driver’s good deeds, ranging from simple acts of kindness, like fixing a flat tire, to heroic life-saving efforts, like pulling someone from a burning vehicle and administering CPR. When you know of, witness or experience an exceptional act of kindness or courtesy by a truck driver, you can nominate that trucker for a Highway Angel award by filling out the electronic form at www.truckload.org or faxing the information to (703) 836-6610. Make sure the fax says “Attention Highway Angels program” on the cover sheet and that the driver’s name is clearly visible.
Poetry in Motion
Truck drivers are often stereotyped as testosterone-laden, burly men, with not a sensitive bone in their bodies. But one driver has broken that stereotype and then some.
A 17-year veteran driver has embraced his sensitive, spiritual side and published a book of poems.
Terry Beswick of Fulton, Ill., titled his book Reflections of Life.
“I try to write about how I think a lot of people feel or maybe have experienced the same thing,” he says, referring to his life on the road, as well as his life as a single father and his experiences with divorce.
Beswick, 41, is also working on a second book to be titled Life’s Puzzle, with new poetry plus a story about a man who has been through a rough life but remains calm and keeps his faith in God.
For now, Beswick is still driving, but he says he hopes to eventually become a full-time writer. “I have always enjoyed writing,” Beswick says. “I truly hope that my writings reflect on how a lot of people feel in life and possibly help some hold on to their faith and believe in themselves, no matter what ride life may take you on.”
Fulton’s book contains 20 keepsake poems printed on 8.5-inch by 11-inch designer paper that can be pulled from the book and given as gifts. Each poem comes in an individual laminated pouch, and the poem topics range from God and family to life and its confusion. Each poem can be pulled out, framed and given to someone special or displayed in a home or truck. Or the book can be left as is.
“I really think a lot of truckers would like having my book in their truck,” Beswick says.
His book has already caught the eye of newscaster Mike Mickel of KWQC Channel 6 News in Davenport, Iowa, just across the Mississippi River from Fulton. He wrote a story about Beswick and his book for the June 2004 issue of his monthly magazine, QC Family Focus.
Beswick says he hopes to sell enough copies of his book to cover court costs and lost wages that piled up during a court battle with his ex-wife over the custody of their two children, Kole, 12, and Kelsey, 14, three years ago. Beswick says he had to sell his beloved black Kenworth W900 to pay for the custody battle, but he did win sole custody of his children.
He now drives for Blachowske Trucking, staying within a 50-mile radius of his home to be close to his kids.
Though he went through a rough period, Beswick says he always tries to have a sunny outlook on life.
“While doing my most important job in life – being a good father, a good provider and attending as many sports events and other activities my kids are interested in – I maintain my good attitude,” he says. “I learned growing up on a farm, children are the most valuable creation you can contribute to in life. It’s very important to show them values, morals, hard work, love and trust as their key to success in life.”
Beswick started his own company, Poetry in Motion, to publish Reflections of Life, and he says he plans to sell the book for $29.95 at truckstops and bookstores with the marketing help of Choice Books.