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On Friday, Tom Osborne presented a Heroes Game Award to Jason Parks of Omaha for a deed that Nebraska’s athletic director can identify with, based on personal experience, even though he believes Parks’ efforts were truly heroic and his were not.
Parks is Nebraska’s 2012 “citizen hero” after going above and beyond to save the life of a truck driver whose semitrailer collided with another semi near the Henderson, Neb., exit on I-80 just 3½ months ago. Parks rushed to the scene of the accident and, with no regard for his own safety, pulled one of the drivers from the flaming wreckage only moments before the truck exploded.
Perry Ware, a truck driver from Independence, Mo., owes his life to Parks, who lifted him up and out of his seat belt while the console was consumed with flames. The right side of the truck was also in flames, making it difficult for Parks to unfasten the seat belt and get Ware out of his truck.
Somehow, Parks managed to remove Ware, who broke a vertebra, 11 ribs and his clavicle in addition to suffering a serious knot on his head and burns on the right side of his body. A professional truck driver for 40 years with a previously unblemished driving record, Ware was pulled out of his semi in time to watch it explode with Parks right next to him.
Parks’ heroism is all the more dramatic because he witnessed the crash in his rear view mirror and made sure that he circled back to do what he could to help. His quick action gained a new grateful and humble friend who was told by the ambulance crew and law enforcement officers that they’d never seen such a heroic rescue.
Osborne said Parks is a true hero and a worthy recipient of the Heroes Award. It’s ironic that Nebraska’s Hall-of-Fame coach faced a similar situation on the same basic stretch of Interstate more than 30 years ago. He remembers driving his family somewhere between Seward and Grand Island and seeing a car in his rear view mirror in flames on the opposite side of the Interstate.
Unaware if anyone was inside the burning vehicle, but since no one seemed to be stopping, Osborne decided to make sure, so he pulled the family station wagon into the Interstate’s median to check. “There were flames in the car, and there was someone in it,” Osborne said. “It was very difficult to get him out, but somehow, we were able to do so.”
When Osborne was informed about this year’s Nebraska Heroes Game award winner, he couldn’t help but flash back to his own experience, saying he just happened to be in the right place at the right time to assist someone who needed help.
“I feel good about the way we’ve come together with Iowa to honor everyday citizen heroes,” Osborne said. “I give (Assistant Athletic Director) Michael Stephens and his team, Hy-Vee and the American Red Cross a lot of credit for honoring heroic acts at the Heroes Game. So many rivalry games have a bucket or an ax or something similar as the prize for the winning team. I think it’s good that we’re focusing on things that ordinary citizens can do to make an extraordinary difference.”
Lois and Bill Hall of Clinton, Iowa, were recognized as the Hawkeye Heroes Award recipients at halftime of Friday’s Nebraska-Iowa game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. The Halls and the K-9 dogs they raise and train provide more than 1,500 hours of service to their community each year, assisting with emergency search and rescue missions and offering therapy visits to local schools and hospitals.
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