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What would you do if you saw a wheelchair-bound woman stuck on the train tracks, a locomotive barreling down on her? I’d like to think I’d leap to the rescue. Even if I knew I had mere seconds to spare. But there’s not telling until you are in the moment.

This is the dilemma 18-year-old Lilly Baker found herself facing in her home town of Ardmore, Tennessee. A regular drive to see her friends turned into a nightmare after she crossed the train tracks and saw a woman with a wheelchair struggling to get across.

The older woman was walking behind her wheelchair and pushing it. But then she got a wheel stuck in the tracks. She appeared unable to free the chair or continue without it. Baker said, “She could barely walk.” And then the crossing lights began to strobe. As Lilly listened, she heard a train horn.

Red diesel locomotive in Florida
Diesel locomotive | Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Baker realized the woman would likely die if a hero didn’t step up. And Baker realized, she would have to be that hero. She thought, “I got to do something now, because no one is helping her.” So she got out of her car and ran onto the tracks, in front of the oncoming train. She was able to help the woman begin walking, but then the two of them fell down.

Baker could have leapt to safety herself, but she was still determined to save the stranded woman. She recounted, “The lights started flashing, and the thing started to make noises, and I was like ‘Lady, I got to get you out of here.'” So she picked up the woman and began to run. But she tripped and the two of them fell again, still in the path of the train.

With the train mere seconds from crushing them, many people would have chosen to save themselves. But in that moment, Baker decided the woman’s life was worth sacrificing herself for. She thought, “It’s either: We’re going to die, or we are going to get out of here.”

18-year-old girl on the tracks where she saved a wheelchair-bound woman from an oncoming train.
Lilly Baker | Nashville’s News Channel 5 via YouTube

Baker scooped up the fallen woman again and made one final leap. She managed to get their bodies out of the way of the train, but it struck their legs. The train passed so close by that it knocked the shoes off both victims’ feet, and it spun the woman around. She even had to go to the hospital for minor injuries. But in the end, both Baker and the woman were alright.

The railroad company told Baker she was 18 inches away from being crushed. She admitted it was “a near death experience.”

An interviewer asked Baker if she would do it all again. She said she has no regrets about choosing to sacrifice herself. “I could have died. But you know, if I did die I would have died trying to save somebody. So it would have been ok.”

Baker is a senior in high school. But she’s already decided to go on to become a nurse. With a heart like hers, she’ll be a fantastic one. The town gave Baker an award for heroism and the Ardmore police chief said of the small teenager: “Heroes come in all shapes and sizes.”

Next, learn about the police officer who sacrificed himself to save a truck driver, or see Lilly Baker interviewed in the video below: