Anonymous angels were bright light during storm - Albuquerque Journal

Anonymous angels were bright light during storm

Traffic inches along Montgomery Boulevard during a dangerous evening commute last Wednesday. Late-afternoon and evening snow left roads freezing as temperatures dropped after dark. (Robert Browman/Albuquerque Journal)

There are times where you really want to express your gratitude to someone but doing so seems impossible. It’s like trying to thank the Lone Ranger; all you can do is ask, “Who was that masked man?”

But I’ll try my best to show my great appreciation to a small group of young men and a woman who braved the cold Wednesday evening to help motorists in northwest Albuquerque who were stuck in ice.

They did so with no possibility of receiving recognition and while placing themselves at risk. That same night on an icy hill in Los Lunas, a young man – 18-year-old Anibal Guerrero – was struck and killed while trying to help a stranded motorist.

Late Wednesday evening, after a day of wet snow and very cold temperatures, it took about two hours and 10 minutes to drive home from work. And it could have been a lot longer.

It’s a bit less than 7 miles from the Journal to my home and almost all of it is west on Paseo del Norte. So if the lights are in my favor I can usually make the drive in the time it takes to listen to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s version of “Heard It Through the Grapevine.”

But by 6:45 p.m. on Paseo, all that slushy stuff had turned into a sheet of ice and traffic was bumper to bumper, barely but consistently moving at about 5 mph.

Once you pass Coors, almost no matter which way you are going, you face a pretty long and steep climb to get up on the mesa, where most of the people in those parts live. The valley west of the river is mostly commercial in that area.

As I approached Coors I could see that traffic ahead of me had stopped completely so I ducked off Paseo with plans to take Eagle Ranch Road, bypassing the traffic jam.

You can’t see the hill on Eagle Ranch until after you’ve committed yourself to it, and much to my chagrin on the steepest part of the hill the traffic had stopped completely.

Now, I’m no slouch driving in winter storms. For several years I lived in Missouri, where storms like Wednesday’s would not have even registered as much of a problem. Drivers there are used to such conditions and worse, and because of their frequency the governing bodies there deal with them effectively.

Going up Eagle Ranch would not have been a problem as long as I didn’t have to come to a complete stop on the hill, which by now was completely iced over. There is no way to turn around, as the median is landscaped with trees and big boulders.

I could see activity at the front of the line of stopped cars. Three or four young men and a woman were very animated. The woman was throwing sand from a bag she carried under the tires of the lead car for traction while the young men began pushing it uphill until the car was moving enough to keep going on its own.

Then, they went to the next vehicle in line and did the same thing.

I didn’t think I’d need help but, sure enough, my tires began to spin when my turn came.

One of the young men – I’d guess in his late teens or early 20s – approached my window and quickly said, “We’re going to push; put it in low gear and don’t give it too much gas.” Excellent advice, but he disappeared behind my vehicle before I could respond.

As I let the clutch out slowly while in second gear, I began to inch forward and after a bit I was moving fast enough to continue on my own power.

I didn’t dare slow down to thank them, and besides, they already were scurrying down to help the next car.

So, thank you, whoever you are. I hope one of you sees this. And if you’d like to contact me and identify yourselves, my information is below.

We hear a lot about the problems in Albuquerque, but this little group certainly was a light shining in the dark of a cold, stormy night.

UpFront is a regular Journal news and opinion column. Comment directly to managing editor Dan Herrera at 823-3810 or dherrera@abqjournal.com. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

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