It takes heart to be a hero in the eyes of the Heart of Missouri Chapter of the American Red Cross, and last week the agency presented its Lifesaver Awards to nine individuals for doing extraordinary things to save a life. Among the recipients was Charles "Gib" Graham.
The 18-year-old and the other recipients were acknowledged at a ceremony held June 25 at the North Jefferson City Pavilion.
When asked what he thought about the recognition and award, Graham said it was unexpected. And being called a hero, he said, is a title he doesn't feel he deserves.
"What I did is what any average person would have done," Graham said. "And I definitely didn't expect this."
Graham was presented the Youth Lifesaver Award, which is awarded to outstanding youths who courageously respond to a potentially life-threatening emergency.
According to the nominee information form submitted to American Red Cross Major Gift Officer Nancy Sell, Graham's story began on Jan. 21, 2012:
"Graham was driving and approached the rear entrance of the Hickman's grocery store in Mexico when he saw a black Chevrolet S-10 pickup traveling backwards with no driver. After a closer look, he saw a man being dragged by the truck as it rolled over his chest. Graham tried to stop the truck, but could not on his first attempt. The truck continued in reverse, completed a circle and ran over the man a second time before Graham could stop the truck. Graham checked the man for injuries and yelled for someone to call 911. A witness pulled up behind Graham's vehicle and called 911. Audrain Ambulance personnel responded to the scene and transported the man to Audrain Medical Center. The victim was then flown (by helicopter) to University Hospital in Columbia."
"I think (this award) just goes to show that he (Graham) is a good representative of the strength of our youth," Sell said of Graham's deed and courage to respond. "We are proud to have been able to present him with the award, and we urge him to keep the attitude that he has. We are very proud of him."
Graham was nominated by Mexico Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dana Keller. For four years, Graham was an active member of the Chamber-sponsored Student Ambassador Program at Mexico High School.
"Although I am around Gib on a regular basis, he never mentioned his part in helping save Mr. Terry. I learned of his heroic efforts in a conversation I had with his dad, Tracy. I was sharing with him how much I enjoyed Gib and appreciated his willingness to help out in any situation. It was then he told me about Gib's call to action," Keller recalled. "I couldn't believe Gib had essentially saved a man's life and never mentioned it to me – or many others for that matter. I think it is because Gib has been raised to live by the Golden Rule, he saw someone who needed help and he instantly went into action with no regard for the danger he was putting himself in. After I heard about the American Red Cross Lifesaver Award I knew Gib deserved to be part of those recognized. I called Gina Gilman the Curriculum Facilitator for Mexico Public Schools and she helped start the nomination process. Gib is an amazing young man."
Page 2 of 2 - Not bragging, yet proud, Graham's mother, Janet agrees with Keller.
"Gib has always been very compassionate towards others and always willing to help anyone. We are so proud of him and know he will continue his acts of kindness throughout his life. That is just who he is," she said about her son.
Before the recognition ceremony, she said "Gib may seem laid-back about the event, but I am sure inside he is grateful that so many people acknowledged his good deed."
Graham's biggest fan likely said it best about his young hero:
"I never had the opportunity to meet the young man. All the cell phone numbers I had been given, I could never get ahold of him," said Charles Terry, the victim Graham rescued. Terry said due to the accident he was not able to return to work at Hickman's. He retired that same year, after having been with Hickman's IGA since it was owned by Darbys – where he worked for 15 years, before the store sold to Hickman's. Terry worked at Hickman's for five years before he retired.
As a result of the injuries Terry suffered from the accident, he said he is limited to what he can do, "but doing as well as expected."
"Whatever he was nominated for, I go along with it and would have loved to have been there, because I feel like he saved my life. If the truck had run over me a third time, I probably wouldn't be here to tell you this today," Terry said. "However, I am most glad to hear about his award. He definitely deserves it. Thank you again for saving my life."
Graham, a 2013 MHS graduate, plans to attend Linn Technical College this fall and study diesel mechanics. In high school he played soccer and was an active member of the Future Farmers of America and Youth Ambassadors.
His advice to his peers and others who may be faced with helping someone in need is: "Do what you can. It does make a difference. It's the little things that help make the world better."
Graham's parents, younger brother, Jacy, and grandmother Anna Rainey all attended the awards ceremony, which also included an outside barbecue dinner, a live and silent auction and youth activities.