Terry McKnight doesn’t consider himself a hero, but the men and women he works with, the family that cherishes him and the many people he has helped over the years, would affectionately disagree.
McKnight, a driver for Challenger Motor Freight, was presented with the 2021 Ontario Trucking Association-Bridgestone Truck Hero Award last night at the OTA’s 95th annual conference in Toronto.
“This award is a recognition of courageousness, selflessness and integrity in the face of an emergency. This year’s winner is the embodiment of modesty, but his actions as both a truck driver and as a caring human being are marvellous,” said Jim Devlin, National Fleet Account Executive, Bridgestone Canada, in presenting the award.
It was October 2018 when Terry McKnight was travelling in his Challenger truck on the I-75 near Cincinnati. Suddenly, a woman in a small passenger vehicle sped hastily from the onramp and darted in front of his truck before trying to squeeze between two other cars. She struck one of the cars, lost control and hit the median wall. Her car then flipped over on its hood and slid 20 yards onto the middle of the highway.
As her car lay across two lanes of traffic, other vehicles narrowly swerved at the last second to avoid crashing into her.
“The first thought I had was that if somebody doesn’t do something she is going to get killed. I didn’t want to see her get hit because she almost got hit twice,” McKnight recalls.
McKnight slowed his tractor trailer and brought it safely to a stop across two lanes, effectively blocking the woman’s crumpled car from other approaching vehicles. He then got out of his truck and approached the woman, who, miraculously, was shaken up but not too seriously hurt. McKnight wrenched open the driver’s door and cautiously freed the upended woman out of her car.
McKnight doesn’t consider himself a hero but does wish other drivers would have stopped to help. “The part I couldn’t understand was nobody stopped except for me. They would slow down and look, but they never stopped.”
Despite his self-modesty, McKnight’s bosses and co-workers at Challenger consider his actions extraordinary.
“Not all heroes wear capes,” says Challenger CEO Dan Einwechter. “But, for the grace of God, you just don’t ever know what is going to happen next in life; and for that reason, I hope that if my family or my friends are ever in need, there is somebody there like Terry to help.”
Terry is no stranger to heroic acts. He has on two other occasions stopped to assist people on the highway involved in traffic collisions and many years ago he stopped to escort people out of a burning house.
“I’m not surprised that it was my dad who was the one to stop, whether it’s other situations or the house on fire … and it’s the same thing with this woman – he appreciates other people’s lives. Even if he doesn’t know them, he knows that it’s somebody’s mom, or sister, or daughter, and every life is important to him,” says McKnight’s daughter, Cassie.
As for being named the 2021 Truck Hero, Terry is appreciative of the honour but he’s taking it all in stride:
“Helping people? That’s just how I was brought up – to do the right thing. I’m just a regular person doing a regular job … I’m just trying to make a living for my family and survive just like everybody else.”