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ATU heroes going above and beyond

Throughout its history ATU members have been known for providing a safe haven for people in peril. They perform an unofficial, yet vital function as the eyes and ears of the communities they serve.

Over the last 20 years, however, operators themselves have increasingly become the targets of vicious attacks that would make most people wary of doing anything that would increase their chances of getting hurt.

Nevertheless, that hasn’t stopped ATU drivers from risking their own safety to rescue endangered citizens they find on their routes, often when they are totally ignored by other passers-by.

Unfortunately, if reports received at the International are any guide, the number and seriousness of these incidents seems to be increasing, and brave ATU members continue to help and rescue those in need and in danger on a daily basis:


‘I will fight for you’

Milwaukee County (WI) Transit System (MCTS) driver, Sharon Chambers, 998, is being recognized for her quick action in helping a 15-year-old girl escape from a man who tried to pull her into his car, and was harassing and following her.

Chambers was about to pull away from a stop when she noticed the girl waving in her direction.

“As she walked in front of the bus I noticed she was crying,” Chambers says. “I told her to get on the bus and let her know no one was going to mess with her on my bus.”


‘You are safe’

Chambers drove away from the area in case the man was still following, and called MCTS Dispatch, who notified Milwaukee Police. Chambers drove the bus to meet police and MCTS staff.

As they were waiting for police to arrive, Chambers called the girl’s grandmother to let her know what happened and comforted the girl, telling her, ”Don’t worry about it. You are safe. I will fight for you; no one is going to
hurt you."

“Sharon, and all the other hardworking employees at MCTS and Milwaukee County make me proud to live in Milwaukee and serve as county executive,” says County Executive Chris Abele. MCTS says it receives hundreds of commendations each year for drivers.


‘I did what every human should do’

OC Transpo driver Dan Stoddard, 279, says it was just instinct, “it’s just what I should be doing”.

While on his regular route, Stoddard spotted a young woman at a bus shelter at one o’clock in the morning. When he pulled up and she didn’t get on, he knew something was wrong.

After some coaxing, Stoddard convinced the woman, who was half-naked and in obvious distress, to get on his bus.  He then called transit security and drove the bus to the nearby park-n-ride.


‘I helped with what I was able to’

He asked the two other male passengers to go to the back of the bus, and sat at the front with the woman and comforted her until police and transit security arrived. She told him that she had been assaulted physically and verbally.

“Do I know what happened specifically? No I don’t. Did she need help? Yes, she did,” said Stoddard. “I helped with what I was able to help with. I didn’t go above and beyond; I did what every human should do.”

One of the two other riders on board was amazed at Stoddard’s actions saying, “people never hear about the good things they do.” He took a picture of Stoddard and the woman chatting, and the photo went viral.


‘Sitting idle is not an option’

Driver Alain Charette, 279-Ottawa, ON, is being hailed for his bravery for defending a Muslim woman on his bus.

The young woman wearing a niqab/burqa boarded Charette’s bus and a man seated near her started making insulting “Islamophobic” comments to other passengers. The woman told him if he had something to say, not to say it to the other passengers, but to her.

The man wouldn’t stop. “He kept calling me a freak and a terrorist. He even yelled at me to assimilate,” the woman said.

Hearing the heated exchange, Charette quickly pulled his bus over and came to her defense, saying he had called the authorities. “I presented to him that it’s either you leave or wait for security, but something’s going to happen,” Charette said. “Help is on the way, but in the meantime – leave the lady alone.”

The man told the driver there was no problem, that he loves Christians and Muslims and Jews, and that he was getting off the bus anyway.

The young woman praised Charette for standing up for her and her Islamic community. He said it was his duty to speak up. “Bigotry hurts people by lowering the humanity level of society,” Charette says. “Sitting idle is not an option.”


‘We are incredibly grateful’

On April 30, just before 9:30 a.m., Operator Ari Megaro, 192-Oakland, CA, was driving his route when he observed a small boy on a foot-powered scooter riding alone on the sidewalk alongside his bus. Sensing a potentially dire situation, the driver immediately brought his coach to a safe stop and calmly engaged the boy using their mutual love of skateboards to gain his trust.

Megaro was not aware that seven-year-old Danny Eichberg has autism; that he had traveled several miles from home; that his family had frantically contacted local police, and that an active search was underway.

Megaro provided Danny a front-row seat on the bus, watching over his impromptu ward and assuring him, as authorities located the family.

“We are incredibly grateful to… Mr. Megaro for taking the initiative to intervene and ensure his safety,” said the boy’s father, Michael Eichberg, adding, “I still can’t believe AC Transit rescued him. When he turned six, he even had a birthday cake shaped like an AC Transit Bus… So you can imagine how he must have felt when the bus driver pulled over and opened the door for him.”

“Each day our operators directly interact with nearly 200,000 riders positively addressing a myriad of customer service situations,” says Michael Hursh, AC Transit’s general manager. “In fact, AC Transit operators perform exceptional acts daily in our community – often under great pressure.”


‘Someone was going to be missing this quite badly’

When a little old lady tapped bus operator Dan Storozuk, 583-Calgary, AB, on the shoulder handing over some lost property, he couldn’t believe his eyes.

A wallet left behind by a passenger was bursting with $1,000.

“I’ve had lost property before but this was something else. I knew someone was going to be missing this quite badly,” said the driver.

Storozuk immediately called Supervisor Kulbir Chouhan to report the find. Chouhan went to work, and the wallet was returned in under three hours.

“I was thinking someone was missing their rent. I was very happy that I returned the wallet,” said Chouhan. He met Bernadete Schneuiker in downtown Calgary to deliver the wallet into her eager hands.

”He gave me a big hug. I kind of was totally impressed because they took it really seriously.  Anyone could have grabbed it. A driver could be dishonest. I appreciate the honesty of the driver,” says Schneuiker.

She explained she had boarded the bus with her arms full from grocery shopping. The wallet fell onto the bus floor.

It turns out most of the cash was for her rent that month.

”I kind of lost hope.  I cancelled all my cards and I took it as a loss. I’m so grateful,” she said.

For Chouhan and Storozuk – who plays Santa at holiday time – it was just another day doing their best to serve customers.


‘Just doing my job and being honest’

Operator Daniel Clavette, 113-Toronto, ON, was approached by an elderly man with a bag he said he found on the bus seat. “It was around 5:15 p.m., and I was going Northbound to Scarborough Centre. I knew I would have a little time when I got there to open it and see if there was a piece of identification so we could contact the owner.”

What the driver saw in the bag blew him away.

“There were some folders with funeral information, a passport and two large bank envelopes,” says Clavette. “When I opened one of the envelopes, I saw there were $100 bills and I assumed there were bundles of $10,000.”

The bag actually contained $50,000 that was left there by a man rattled with grief over his mother’s recent death.

The driver immediately contacted his supervisors.

Around the same time TTC was informing police, the frantic bag owner was reporting his loss. He was very ecstatic when he learned his money was in a safe place.

Clavette was recognized for his good deed with a certificate by Division 41. He says returning the money was the right thing to do. “I was just doing my job and being honest,” he says.


Courageous Local 587 member handles harrowing attack

In Port Angeles, WA, police hailed Local 587-Seattle, WA, driver Joy Crummett, 60, who showed incredible bravery in the face of a terrible attack.

It was on a Saturday afternoon when a man riding on her bus suddenly gets up and viciously kicks an 80-year-old woman in the face, yelling, “I’m going to beat you... kill you!”

He starts “punching her and slamming her head into the floor,” reports Corporal Dombrowski of the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office.


Driver choked after she stops woman’s beating

Crummett pulls the bus over and manages to drag the man off of the woman, as he struggles to break free.

The attacker then pins the operator against the front of the bus, near the door, and chokes her, screaming, “Let go or I’m going to rip your throat out.”  Crummett nearly passes out before the assailant is looks back at the other woman who is getting up off the floor.

Crummett breaks free, calls for help, and opens the doors, letting the four other terrified passengers out.

The crazed man pushes his first victim out the front door, but returns. Apparently planning to hijack the coach, he starts hitting Crummett, ordering her to close the doors.

With remarkable poise she asks the man to check the back doors first. With her assailant momentarily distracted, Crummett manages to run off, closing the doors behind her – but not before disabling the battery.

The assailant struggled to drive off with the immobile bus before he was apprehended. He was arraigned on two counts of second-degree assault and single counts of first-degree attempted kidnapping and first-degree attempted robbery.

Both female victims have been released from the hospital after suffering what police call a “substantial amount of pain.”


Milwaukee member heroics tracked by agency

Local 998 may appear to have the highest number of heroes because the Milwaukee (WI) County Transit System (MCTS) actively encourages the public to report its employees’ good deeds.  They, nonetheless, deserve to be mentioned here as further evidence of all ATU members’ devotion to the communities they serve.


‘Hey man! Don’t do that’

Anthony Brownlee, 998, was on his route on a Sunday afternoon when he noticed a couple with a baby fighting in a parking lot.

“She was on the back of the car and he had his hands around her neck.” Bystanders were doing nothing to help the woman.

“He was just choking her,” says Brownlee, “that’s when I opened the door… and said, ‘Hey man! Don’t do
that! You shouldn’t be putting your hands on anybody, male or female.”

He actually succeeded in calming the man down, telling him, “I don’t want to see you get a domestic violence charge.”

The woman “grabbed the baby and came on the bus,” says Brownlee.


‘Don’t go back’

The operator asked the woman if she wanted him to call police. She said no, and thanked him. And before she exited the bus he advised her, “Don’t go back. Cause if they do it once they’re going to do it again.”

Brownlee hopes his actions will encourage others to intervene when they see domestic violence. “At least say something,” he says, “because usually if you do say something, they’ll stop.”


‘My instincts kicked in’

Another Milwaukee County (WI) Transit System (MCTS) bus driver Shari Carroll, 998, went beyond the call of duty when she noticed that a recently debarked passenger’s wheelchair was stuck in front of her.

“She was just stuck. Actually two of her wheels were on the curb and two of them were in the street. She couldn’t move and she couldn’t back up. She couldn’t do anything,” Carroll says.

“My instincts kicked in and I was like, ‘well, I got to get her out of the street at least,’” Carroll says.


‘This is too cool’

“She just stopped and went so out of her way,” says passenger John Bischoff, “and she just jumped in. She was down on her hands and knees trying to get this lady’s transmission unlocked and I thought this is too cool.”

“I didn’t want anyone to come around my bus, especially doing an illegal turn in front of me and striking her,” Carroll says. Bischoff and a friend got the motorized wheelchair running again.

Bischoff says he and the other riders were impressed. Carroll says she’s surprised by the attention, but grateful.


Nine weeks

All of the incidents above happened from April 16, to June 16 – just nine weeks out of the life of ATU members in Canada and the United States. Those who read In Transit know that this was not an unusual period of time. Reports of the world of good our members do for their communities pour into the International on a weekly basis.

And we know these are just the “tip of the iceberg.” ATU members perform hundreds of selfless acts every day that no one ever hears about. If you know a member who you think is an ATU hero be sure to send their story to President Hanley’s office at officeofthepresident@atu.org.

Featuring these nine members is our way honoring all of the unsung ATU heroes who routinely go above and beyond the call of duty simply because it’s the right thing to do. You make us “proud to be ATU.”