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Jeff Fister remembers the woman who helped calm his child after a bad car accident

Nearly 20 years ago, Jeff Fister was in a car accident with one of his children. They weren't injured, but it was still overwhelming until a stranger from a nearby healthcare center came and helped soothe the child.
Jeff Fister
Nearly 20 years ago, Jeff Fister was in a car accident with one of his children. They weren't injured, but it was still overwhelming until a stranger from a nearby healthcare center came and helped soothe the child.

This story is part of the My Unsung Hero series, from the Hidden Brain team, about people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else.


About 20 years ago, Jeff Fister was driving his then 12-year-old son to school on a hectic morning in St. Louis. His toddler was in the backseat. He arrived at one of the city's busiest intersections, and the light turned green.

"And out of nowhere, a car smashed into the back of our car," he recalled. "We spun around like a top while the other car flipped and landed upside down."

They were shaken up, but uninjured. When they got out of the car, a police car, fire truck and other emergency vehicles had already started to arrive. His toddler began to cry.

"It was overwhelming," he said.

Fister found himself standing at a street corner, directly across from a major medical center. There were lots of people coming and going, on their way to work. Then he turned around and saw a woman emerge from the crowd, holding out her arms.

"She could see I was pretty shaken up," he recalled. "And I just handed the baby to her."

The woman was wearing a healthcare uniform, which suggested to Fister that she was a nurse or some other medical worker.

"That made me feel safer about handing off the baby. It was really instinctive," he said.

After Fister started making phone calls and speaking to the police, he turned around and looked at the woman holding his child. He saw sparkles in his baby's hair. Then he realized that the sparkles were actually shards of glass, from the shattered car window.

"And I realized how lucky we were," he said.

When things calmed down, the woman handed his child back to Fister. She gave him a little wave and then blended in with the large crowd of people crossing the street.

Since then, the woman's act of generosity has become more and more meaningful to him. It has reminded him that the world is full of goodness, and people who want to help.

"I'm a practicing Catholic and I don't necessarily go in for all the angel stuff...I'm not sure about that," Fister said. "But certainly, I think there are everyday people who decide to help someone out, just performing simple acts of kindness like that woman did for me."

My Unsung Hero is also a podcast — new episodes are released every Tuesday. To share the story of your unsung hero with the Hidden Brain team, record a voice memo on your phone and send it to myunsunghero@hiddenbrain.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brigid McCarthy
Laura Kwerel