The inspiring story behind a new fallen drivers’ memorial along EB I-30 in Arkansas

user-gravatar

Note: See a video of the memorial site, produced by well-known Youtuber Palerider (Keith Lawson) at the bottom of this post.

Drivers Gathered Around Calark Memorial 2018 10 24 10 21

On August 24 this year, office employees of and operators for CalArk and affiliated Central Hauling gathered on a small patch of group adjacent to the company’s Little Rock, Ark., terminal and Interstate 30 to remember trucker Wayne Gordon. The occasion was the result of what company HR Director William Stevens called an outpouring of concern in the wake of the hauler’s tragic passing, which occurred on the job, on-duty under a load out doing what so many of you do as the heartbeat of contemporary American life and business.

Trucker Wayne Anythony Gordon is missed by many.Trucker Wayne Anythony Gordon is missed by many.

Gordon was on I-40 in Arkansas when it happened. Another hauler up ahead had “run off the road on I-40,” Stevens says, in his and attending officers’ best reconstruction of events. And about the time Gordon saw the traffic backing up he must have also realized he was not doing well, because “he maneuvered his truck off of the road,” coming to rest safely against a barrier.

“Had he not pulled off when he did,” Stevens adds, there would have been a chance for further injury to those with whom he shared the road, as Gordon passed on as the result of that medical emergency there, safely out of the I-40 traffic lanes. In the aftermath, the ripples of grief spread throughout the company, with many in the office and among drivers there expressing a desire to attend the funeral far away in Georgia or otherwise do something to remember and honor Wayne Gordon, well-known throughout the company. He’d recently transformed his own personal health with a great deal of weight loss and more, Stevens said, making his loss all the more tragic.

“So many drivers respected him,” Stevens says, and the company decided to plant a tree in his memory. In the process of selecting the magnolia, though, Stevens and others got to thinking about the notion of a wider fallen-driver memorial. Before he joined CalArk in August of 2016, Stevens himself, a military veteran, spearheaded the creation of the “Fearless Rock” underwater memorial to fallen Navy SEAL Adam Brown, native of Hot Springs, Ark., and subject of the “Fearless” book by Eric Blehm.

A somber moment during the first planting of the magnolia was when fellow drivers rolled Gordon’s leased Central Hauling unit up to the site. “We all had that feeling that he was there with us,” Stevens says.A somber moment during the first planting of the magnolia was when fellow drivers rolled Gordon’s leased Central Hauling unit up to the site. “We all had that feeling that he was there with us,” Stevens says.

Though memorials to long-haul drivers are fairly common in other places around the world, including in the Australian culture, “we realized there were none” of significance that “we could find in America,” Stevens says. Quickly, the honorific planting of the tree to Gordon became something more.

The memorial near CalArk’s Little Rock headquarters and just next to I-30 has gathered new elements, including the rim and cross shown. As it progresses in development, Stevens insists it will be a driver-led initiative — of a piece, with that, the cross you see here was the product of drivers based halfway across the country getting together with “maintenance techs at our other facilities to build it,” Stevens says. Then the drivers “painted it and ferried it across the country to us.”The memorial near CalArk’s Little Rock headquarters and just next to I-30 has gathered new elements, including the rim and cross shown. As it progresses in development, Stevens insists it will be a driver-led initiative — of a piece, with that, the cross you see here was the product of drivers based halfway across the country getting together with “maintenance techs at our other facilities to build it,” Stevens says. Then the drivers “painted it and ferried it across the country to us.” The company also worked back through its internal records to identify 25 more former drivers either leased to or employed by CalArk or affiliates they’d lost on-duty in the past, then dedicating “hero stones,” Stevens says, and placing them around the magnolia at the memorial site. At the Fearless Rock underwater memorial, similarly, members of Adam Brown’s SEAL team who, after his own passing, had subsequently perished in the Extortion 17 disaster in Afghanistan in 2011 (the largest single-event loss of life in special-ops history) all had been honored a stone as well. “One of the most important things at the [Fearless Rock] memorial,” Stevens says, has been that “sometimes the family members come out they just want to hold their husband’s or dad’s stones. When we did [the drivers’ memorial], that was a thought that I had. For one, it’s perpetual, it’s a living memorial, something you can keep building on. Also, it honors the individual, not just a group, when you can remember somebody in particular and remember a name.”The company also worked back through its internal records to identify 25 more former drivers either leased to or employed by CalArk or affiliates they’d lost on-duty in the past, then dedicating “hero stones,” Stevens says, and placing them around the magnolia at the memorial site. At the Fearless Rock underwater memorial, similarly, members of Adam Brown’s SEAL team who, after his own passing, had subsequently perished in the Extortion 17 disaster in Afghanistan in 2011 (the largest single-event loss of life in special-ops history) all had been honored a stone as well. “One of the most important things at the [Fearless Rock] memorial,” Stevens says, has been that “sometimes the family members come out they just want to hold their husband’s or dad’s stones. When we did [the drivers’ memorial], that was a thought that I had. For one, it’s perpetual, it’s a living memorial, something you can keep building on. Also, it honors the individual, not just a group, when you can remember somebody in particular and remember a name.” The site should well grow in prominence, as does that magnolia, positioned so close to I-30. “It’s placed in a location where people can see it,” Steven says, where “drivers coming back in from the road can plant flowers along the fence.” As it continues to grow, for those drivers, too, “it’s a little tranquil place … where drivers can find a few minutes of peace and think about their friends.”The site should well grow in prominence, as does that magnolia, positioned so close to I-30. “It’s placed in a location where people can see it,” Steven says, where “drivers coming back in from the road can plant flowers along the fence.” As it continues to grow, for those drivers, too, “it’s a little tranquil place … where drivers can find a few minutes of peace and think about their friends.”

Word travels fast in trucking, today. When they actually planted the tree, some there had gone live on Facebook with the dedication ceremony for Wayne Gordon. Stevens notes he realized that “word had gotten out and as we were doing this” trucks on I-30 “were slowing down and honking their horns as their way of honoring one of their own.”

As for Stevens and those leading the future evolution of the memorial, he says, “most people don’t realize that truck drivers keep this country running. Driver are the most important part of CalArk — it’s our privilege, but also our responsibility, to honor them.”

Well-known Youtuber Palerider (Keith Lawson) produced this brief video of the memorial site recently: 

The Business Manual for Owner-Operators
Overdrive editors and ATBS present the industry’s best manual for prospective and committed owner-operators. You’ll find exceptional depth on many issues in the 2021 edition of Partners in Business.
Download
Partners in Business Issue Cover