Something Happened Last Night.

Coming down the Triboro Bridge into Queens, one can depart into Astoria just at the foot of the bridge. As I approached the light at 31st street ( above which runs, at 90* to the roadway, the elevated subway train ), I saw a ton of papers, shiny things ( broken CD cases, as it turns out ) and file folders. I realized as I drove over them that they were the kind of large brown expanding folder with a flap and tie that people use for serious papers. The stuff you store in a safe deposit box. This stuff is being driven over as I go past.

I circled and illegally parked. The friend in the car and I got out. I ran into the middle of the street ( at a red light ), and picked up a bunch of stuff. We ran into Dunkin’ Donuts on the corner to examine. I had in my arms the large brown file folder, 4 or 5 manilla folders, 2 1 gallon zip lock bags and other papers.

The brown file holder and other folders contained, in no particular detail, the entry papers ( enlistment? ), papers of transfer and assignment, promotion from Private 1st Class, medical documents, plastic folders with awards, citations and promotions in each, and so on.

The zip lock bags held Iraqi money and documents.

We found dog tags. We found his birth certificate, social security card and Discharge Papers. As I held road flares so we wouldn’t be struck by cars bombing by us, my friend picked up more and more papers. Photos strewn and blown along the roadway- and as we walked a few blocks in the road, and eventually DOWN the on-ramp to the Grand Central Parkway, we found more papers. NYPD stopped, lights flashing, to ask what we were doing. We’d just found a copy of the man’s driver’s license. They told us to be careful in the roadway, expressed zero interest in finding out WHO these papers and personal effects should go to, and drove off. ( bastards… )

I got on the phone and, using an address shown in MANY of the documents, tried finding next of kin. No luck. We kept going back out for more papers, more items. I was on the last of 3 road flares ( we were out there over an hour ), when a man in his mid-20’s and a woman of similar age walked along the sidewalk near the Burger King next to the roadway. I looked over, and recognized him.

It was the soldier shown in so many of the photos we’d picked up. He had moved down from upstate New York that day, and the precious huge box of papers ( we also found stuff from his father, his H.S. yearbook, etc. ) were in a large stiff plastic shipping box. I found the shattered cover of that box- it still had the US Customs label affixed to it, from when it was shipped stateside from Iraq.

We went over, and I asked him, " Are you John? " He said yes. We all walked out into the road, avoiding cars and getting some more. Incredibly, we’d both missed his passport- and he found it.

He’d used the box spring from his bed to “pin down” that precious box in his pickup truck. Going over the Triboro, the bouncing was too much and the box spring was dislodged, letting this box be thrown free and shatter as it tumbled.

We got the couple into the car, and drove them the blocks to where he’d parked his truck after realizing that things had broken loose.

He said, and I will never forget this statement, " Some of that stuff came from my father. I’ve never had anything like this happen to me, and I’ve been to the War. " He was utterly stunned.

People stood and watched as my lady and I were in the middle of the damned roadway, picking this stuff up. Did anyone call out to see what we were doing? If we were okay? Did we need help? They did not.

He was already walking back as we were picking stuff up, so I suspect he’d have found a good bit of it. However, his original birth certificate, social security card and discharge papers were a few blocks from the big pile, being blown along by cars zooming by.

Yes, all of those can be replaced. I’ve replaced birth certificates and social security cards myself in the last 20 years. But the totality of such a loss apparently hit the fellow hard. He was quite appreciative. When we first started talking to him, he took out his wallet to give me money. I put a quick stop to that.

It was an upsetting event. I’m so damned glad I saw those papers- apparently they’d been on the road for at least 10- 15 minutes. He got pieces of his military and personal life back, and pieces from his Dad. Now he has THINGS to pass on to his kids… not just spoken stories. Things like his dog tags, and medals he was awarded.

Things from his life.

What an evening.

I’m not posting this to garner attaboy’s. In NYC, there are signs up that speak to a desire for heightened awareness. " If you see something, say something ". In this case, if you see something, DO something.

DO something.


Wow! You did the right thing; above and beyond.

Where I live, traffic stops in both directions if someone drops their groceries.

We only have six stoplights in 150 miles of road; mostly it’s entertainment and something to do.

You are a rare man. Good show.

Thanks to you and your lady for doing the right thing.

Well done. Keep up the good work :slight_smile:

Great story, thanks for sharing!

Something a little like that happened to me once. I was with two cousins and a friend, having a night out at punk clubs and such. We were walking through a mostly empty parking lot when I found a thick leather notebook on the ground. I opened it up to see if there was a name or anything on the inside cover. There was, but what I remember was that it was a travel log. The girl had been to some interesting places, like Nepal or something, and had postcards and money tucked in between some of the pages. I was about to stick it in my backpack so I could call the number the next morning, but then she came around to the parking lot. She had been out searching for the book for a while, so I handed it over. Looking back, I suppose I should have asked her out, but I was too shy.

Wow. Awesome story. Good on you for being one of the rare souls who goes out of their way to help.

Great story

I also want to mention that this happened just a few blocks east of where I live and that block with Dunkin Donuts on the corner – is a weird and vaguely scuzzy place in an otherwise nice neighborhood.

You have my deep respect, sir.

This reminds me - more than a year ago, my brother and I found a daily diary of a man who was stationed in Alaska during WWII. Someone must have lost it. It must be important to someone. With a little detective work, I should be able to figure out who it belongs to, and maybe even return it.

That’s my new job.

Go for it ! And keep us posted on that.

Maybe I’ll run into those folks in a bar in the neighborhood. My parting words to them were that they could buy us a beer.

There’s something else. Both I and my lady friend had the same through pass through our minds briefly and did not act on it. We both considered giving this couple our phone info. She asked me afterwards if that was a mistake, not to do it.

Here’s my take. When someone does something for you that’s unexpected and has a real impact, there’s a debt that is incurred. The release from that debt is anonymity. If I had given them my phone info, or she had given them hers, they’d have taken it. And thus felt a debt. They would have felt compelled to do something.

And personally, that’s wrong. It was a random event with a positive healthy outcome all around. It should be weightless, without repercussions. Does that make sense? It should be … .debt-free.

Yes! Couldn’t agree more. Well said, well done. Nice job, good karma!

I did something like this once. Stopped the car and picked up papers all over a bad curve (dangerous). I found his business card and called him. He picked everything up at my house and told me that he would have lost his job had I not done what I did. Made me happy.

You get a gold star.

You’re a good man, 'toony, for not only sharing your story and allowing us an opportunity for an atta boy (even if you didn’t want one) as well as reminding us as humans, we need to get involved in the controlled chaos that surrounds us. Your good deed was not only stopping the car, but recognizing the opportunity to stop to help a fellow human. Well done, my friend.

Well done, Cartooniverse. I like reading and hearing stories like this.

Hey, this reminds me of that thread about the person who found the ancient wallet in their house. Were they ever able to track down the owner? Does anyone know?