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Heroes walk among us. I always found it interesting how fascinated we are with superheroes and other fictional heroes, when real-life heroes go to work in every town, every day. One of those heroes is Lieutenant Corey Brooks, a police officer in Salisbury, North Carolina.

Salisbury lies on I-85 north of Charlotte, and south of Greensboro. Lieutenant Brooks was in the midst of a normal highway patrol on a normal night when everything went sideways. A semi truck driving down the highway smashed into a concrete wall at full speed. The full-speed impact was shocking. Lieutenant Brooks said, “When it hit the wall it scared me because it’s not everyday you see a tractor-trailer hit a wall that fast.”

And Lieutenant Brooks has spent some time around semi-trucks. Before his 25-year career as a police officer, he was a truck driver. He immediately noticed that the truck was leaking fuel. The fuel was burning. And the fire was making its way to the gas tanks.

Red and blue lights atop a police cruiser.
Police car | Michael Förtsch via Unsplash

The police department has released the adrenaline-inducing bodycam footage (embedded below). Instead of waiting for backup, Brooks immediately ran down the line of flame to the truck. The driver’s side door was jammed so Brooks opened the passenger door and shouted, “You’ve gotta get out of the truck!” But the driver was completely unconscious.

The by-the-book choice would have been to back away from the dangerous truck and wait for the fire department to arrive. But Lieutenant Brooks suspected the truck was moments from exploding and that he would watch the trapped driver burn to death. And in that moment he learned something important about himself. He said, “I don’t think I could psychologically cope with that.”

Instead, he made a truly heroic decision. He said to himself, “I am either going to die here with him or I am going to get him out.”

Brooks grabbed the driver’s upper body and tried wrestle him up over the center console, then down out of the truck. Leaning into the cab and lifting the man out was so difficult, you can hear Lieutenant Brooks screaming with the effort every time he pulls.

Police officer in uniform stands at attention.
Lieutenant Corey Brooks | Queen City News via YouTube

The adrenaline was flowing. Lieutenant Brooks admitted, “This was one of the scariest moments of my career.” And he was able to get the driver down onto the pavement. Once on the ground, he had another impossible challenge: Dragging the man across four lanes of traffic to get clear of the burning truck.

Then, someone that Lieutenant Brooks calls an “angel” materialized. Another driver parked their semi-truck to stop traffic, jumped out, and helped Brooks drag the driver to safety. The moment they were on the far side of the highway, the truck’s fuel tanks went up in a fireball. Then the entire rig exploded.

The injured truck driver woke up moments later. He was able to walk himself to the ambulance and the police department reports he made a full recovery. When Lieutenant Brooks was reunited with the driver he gave him a big hug. The driver thanked Brooks and said, “Now I get to see my kids again.” Lieutenant Brooks admitted, “We’re going to be connected forever.”

The Salisbury Police Department applauded Brooks for his heroism with the Meritorious Act of Bravery Award. It also promoted him to the rank of Captain.

But what about Brooks’ “angel?” The other truck driver left to move her truck and Captain Brooks never saw her again. But he wants to send her a big “thank you” for saving his and the unconscious driver’s life, wherever she is.

Next, read about the dad who saved a mother and toddler from a sinking car with ratchet straps, or see Lieutentant Brooks’ bodycam footage in the video below: