Alexandria, Virginia

The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) recently recognized Larry Ratliff, of St. Joseph, Missouri, as a Highway Angel for rescuing a woman who was about to take her life.

Ratliff was following two other FirstFleet drivers traveling on I-24 through Illinois on the morning of April 11, when the truckers radioed to him that they had just passed a woman climbing over the railing on the bridge. When Ratliff, who was about ½ mile behind the other drivers, arrived at the bridge, he saw a woman squatting on the other side of the railing, looking down into the river about 150 ft. below. Although at the time he didn’t know what the woman intended, he decided to stop to see if she needed help.

“I thought it was strange that a woman was up on the railing, but you don’t think about somebody trying to take her life,” Ratliff said. “I thought she had lost something.”

Ratliff yelled at the woman as he attempted to cross from the eastbound to the westbound lanes of the busy interstate. When the woman would not respond or look at him, “I realized that it was a serious situation,” Ratliff said, “so I stopped and started talking to her, trying to say anything I could to keep her from jumping. Finally she stood up and put her hands out and turned toward the river.”

When he saw she was going to jump, Ratliff ran to the woman, leaned over the railing, wrapped his arms around her, and pulled her back. “Once I grabbed her and plunged us both to the concrete, she started crying real hard and clinging to my shirt,” he said.

By then someone had called for assistance, and Ratliff stayed with the woman until help arrived.

Ratliff said he can’t give a good reason why he decided to stop in the first place, but he believes he was put there for a purpose. Within less than one year as a professional truck driver, Ratliff has already exhibited the qualities that make for an exceptional driver.

Ratliff received a Highway Angel lapel pin, certificate, and patch for his efforts, and his employer, FirstFleet, Inc., also received a certificate for acknowledging a Highway Angel in their midst.

Since the program’s inception in August 1997, hundreds of drivers have been recognized as Highway Angels for the exemplary kindness, courtesy, and courage they have displayed while on the job.