Removing the chill with human kindness

Dianne St. Jean
Special thanks go out to truck driver Kuljeet Singh Khosa who came to our rescue last week when we experienced a flat tire in frigid temperatures.
Special thanks go out to truck driver Kuljeet Singh Khosa who came to our rescue last week when we experienced a flat tire in frigid temperatures.
submitted photo

A recent news report credited an Edmonton bus driver with saving a homeless man’s life in bone-chilling -40 degree weather.

The man was already slumped over and unresponsive when discovered by the driver in a bus shelter. Calling 911 saved the man’s life.

People stranded in cold still an issue here

As heart-warming as that story is, we have plenty of our own here in Valemount.

While Valemount had been enjoying warm temperatures till a couple of weeks ago, the turn to a cold snap proved to be a nightmare for some Via Rail passengers.

A couple travelling from the coast ended up standing in frigid temperatures waiting for the train, and had it not been for the intervention of a helpful local dog and business owners of the Swiss Bakery, who knows what might have happened.

Stranded after hours, with nothing open and nowhere to go, the couple were standing outside shivering in the cold in inadequate clothing for the weather.

Via Rail, the Village and the Province need to do something

Locals know the score with this scenario, but to those who might not be familiar with it, the only drop-off and pick up point for Via Rail passengers in Valemount is a slab of concrete by the tracks. Nothing else. No overhead shelter, not even a bench to sit on.

Story after story is relayed about passengers in between connections being stranded at the spot, waiting for the passenger train. I myself had visitors who have been delayed in their arrival or departure by literally hours, sometimes to the next day. If you don’t have access to the Via Rail number or a cell phone, you have no way of knowing how long you could be standing there. Even if you do, many times the information of when the train is due to arrive does not fit the reality.

The passenger train is obligated to stop and allow freight trains to pass as these are a priority. That means that people standing waiting for the train in Valemount are at risk of being stranded for hours, and when it happens in cold weather, that becomes more than an inconvenience – it becomes a serious issue.

Thanks to those who stop and help in the cold

When the weather is frigid, and especially when it’s dark, people are more vulnerable.

I know from personal experience how absolutely essential it is for people to understand that when you see someone that may need help, even if you’re not certain they do, to stop and make sure. If you can’t give them hands on help yourself, at least perhaps you can make a phone call.

Recently on our way back from Hinton we got a flat tire. We pulled off the highway not far from Mt. Robson. 

Usually changing a flat is not a big deal, but this time my husband was unable to free the spare from the winch mechanism it was attached to because it had rusted so badly. The only way we ultimately got it released was by grinding it free.

However, until that happened, we were left at the mercy of other people as we had no cell phone reception.

It was pitch dark. We put on our flashers and my husband began waving down traffic with a flashlight.

A stream of traffic whizzed by us. Only one individual, a semi-truck driver, stopped to help us. Because of that, my husband was able to get to town and call our friend Kevin Trach from Cougar Mountain Lodge B & B. Kevin drove my husband to our place to get the grinder we needed, then drove back to where the truck was.

Once that spare tire was free, it took just minutes to change and we were on our way. Kevin, who worked as a welder in the oil industry, commented that he has seen hundreds of spares that had to be cut free because of serious rusting like that.

But here’s the first hero in this story.

If truck driver Kuljeet Singh Khosa had not stopped, I really don’t know how long we would have been standing at that roadside.

My husband, in gratitude, offered to give him some money for stopping, but he refused. He said that he was raised to believe that whenever you see anyone in need of help, you are required to help them.

Thank goodness that there are people out there who truly follow what they were raised to believe. I don’t know if they realize just what a difference it makes to those they help.

It is amazing how many people just don’t stop, even to check to see if someone’s fine. I wonder what would happen if someone experienced a medical crisis and someone didn’t stop in time?

I realize that not everyone can take on extra passengers or help in a practical manner, but it doesn’t take much to pull over for just a minute, ask a simple question, and if you can’t help hands-on, at least volunteer to call for help on their behalf when you reach cell reception.

The stretches of highway that we live near, whether travelling back and forth to Alberta as many here do for medical appointments, or driving to or from McBride or southward, leaves travellers vulnerable and at the mercy of others because there are gaps with no cell reception.

In this day and age, this should be considered unacceptable, especially considering probable outcomes for those experiencing trouble or a crisis situation.

The problem facing passengers at the Via Rail stop in Valemount should have, in my opinion, been taken care of long ago. What is it going to take to get some action on these matters, and who is going to take that first step? 

In the meantime, thank goodness for those who intervene with acts of kindness and consideration for the wellbeing of others.