Eleven years ago, a stranger helped save Phillip Peterson’s life, and he’ll never forget it.
Peterson, now 30, of DeKalb, was a 19-year-old student at Kishwaukee College at the time. He was headed there in his Ford F-150 pickup Friday, Sept. 13, 2002. He was cruising at 55 mph an hour on Route 38, the window rolled down, chewing a wad of tobacco with Joe Diffie’s “John Deere Green” on the radio.
“I got up near the [Prairie Pines] golf course, and there’s a little hill and there’s a subdivision on the right and then the hill goes down,” Peterson said. “I had not seen anybody on other side. As I came to the peak of the hill is when I saw a car. So I slammed on the brakes.”
It was too late. Peterson’s pickup rear-ended the stopped vehicle. His truck spun into oncoming traffic, where it was T-boned by an oncoming van that hit where the driver’s side door meets the truck bed. The truck went into the air, with a full rotation in the air, then landed back on its wheels, Peterson said.
He’d filled the Ford’s 30-gallon tank the night before, and the tank had split in the collision. Fuel was spilling all over the road. Peterson was unconscious, bleeding from multiple gashes in his head.
A woman whose name he never learned – she might have been from Rochelle – pulled him out of his truck for fear it would catch fire.
“Once she pulled me out, I was on the side of the road, and that’s when Keri London came running out and noticed that I was choking on my blood,” Peterson said. “So she had rolled me onto my side and kept doing finger swipes to keep my airway open.
London kept him alive until DeKalb and Malta firefighters arrived, along with officers from the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office. They wanted to fly Peterson to see trauma specialists, but because he was already going into shock, they didn’t think he could survive the flight.
Instead, they took him to Kishwaukee Hospital. A team of trauma specialists from Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove flew to him instead.
He needed 72 stitches and staples in his head, wore a neck brace day and night for two months. But he survived, recovered and graduated from Kishwaukee College on time despite it all.
He never forgot what London did that day to save his life. But he did lose touch with her, as people often do. He’d made some attempts to contact her again, but without success.
This week, he remembered the anniversary while filling out paperwork at his job in the engineering department at the Illinois Tollway.
“I was filling it out and I asked the date,” Phillips said. “Then I realized it was Sept. 13. Friday the 13th.”
Phillips put out a post on the DeKalb Corn Fest Facebook page telling people he was looking for London, and a few hours later, he did connect with London, who now is a DeKalb County probation officer.
Phillips, who still lives in DeKalb with his wife, Inge, and 16-month-old daughter, Theda, said he plans to get together with London and her husband in the future.
“I said I just literally wanted to reach out to you and say ‘Thank you’ one more time because without your help I would not have my wife, I would not have my daughter,” Phillips said. “Your first immediate actions saved my life.”
Phillips says he’s not only grateful for London’s actions, but also those of the firefighter/paramedics, medical staff and others who helped him survive and recover.
“It was all literally a miracle.”
Help from ‘No Child’: Our family received a letter recently from Julie Graves, principal at South Prairie Elementary in Sycamore.
The letter said they have not made Adequate Yearly Progress as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
So they are considered a school in “choice,” which means that my children would be eligible to transfer to another school in the district.
Even if for some reason I wanted to alienate my children by wrenching them away from their friends and teachers in the neighborhood school, I couldn’t – the letter says there are no schools in the district eligible to accept transfer students.
South Prairie is like many of the other schools in our area. There are bright hallways full of student artwork. It has reasonable class sizes and offers classes in subjects including art, music and computers in addition to core subjects. Many schoolchildren in Illinois do not have the same opportunities.
I can tell my children are learning things there.
But apparently it is not up to snuff according to the standardized test scores of one group or another in one subject or another – the goal for this school year is to have 100 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards.
As such, parents are supposed to have the option to choose a different school. Only there is no choice because no other schools are eligible to accept transfer students, the letter says.
To sum up: No Child Left Behind says that the local elementary school is not doing a good enough job despite all my experience to the contrary. The law then offers me a choice in schools that does not exist because apparently none of the other schools are doing a good enough job, either.
Thank you for the help, federal government.
This likely will be the last year for No Child Left Behind, and at this point it is for the best. Certainly we want our schools to be accountable for educating children, and they will be shifting to a new set of standards called “Common Core.”
The “No Child” law’s goal of making 100 percent of students meet or exceed standards by the end of this school year is admirable, but maybe it’s not realistic. A law that tells me the local elementary school is failing when I can tell that it’s not clearly is no longer working.
Let’s hope that the Affordable Care Act doesn’t end up working this way 10 years from now.
Slice of life: I came upon my 5-year-old barefoot in our garage Thursday evening.
She was wearing a pink bicycle helmet, holding a yellow bucket painted with pink flowers and filled with who-knows-what. She was shoeless.
I had to say something, but I’ve learned not to ask questions when I’m scared of the answer. I asked why she wasn’t wearing shoes.
“I’m barefoot, because it’s the old times,” she said.
OK then. Carry on, I guess.