A Wrong Turn at the Right Time

Aug. 27, 2018

Breakthru Beverage in the News

A truck driver’s route is designed to be predictable. Each day is planned out logistically, stop-by-stop, with variables like fuel, load weight and possible detours factored into the equitation.

Sure, there might be a few surprises along the way, such as a long wait at the loading dock, or a large miss-order that needs to be repacked and taken back to the warehouse. For the most part however, a driver’s route is routine.

For 20 years, Jason Gaebel has been driving these predictable routes, delivering beer throughout the Minneapolis/St. Paul area for Breakthru Beverage Minnesota. For close to 20 years, everything had been predictable, and then last week, something unpredictable happened.

Jason Gaebel and his helper, Kwame Anderson, pulled out of the Breakthru Beverage Minnesota warehouse and onto Prior Ave. north as they always had, but something was different. Gaebel took a wrong turn early in the drive, only about five miles down the road. And no, it wasn’t because of a lack of direction.

“Something came over me and I decided to make what is usually my last stop the first stop of the day,” Gaebel said.  “So I took a left, instead of my usual right.”

Anderson looked at him and asked why they were going that way, and he said, “I don’t know, man. But we need to make a left here.”

As soon as the two turned onto the bridge above I-94, they noticed a man, clad in a thin white t-shirt and sun-faded pants, clinging to the other side of the fence by his fingertips, his body leaning heavily towards the rush hour blur of road and cars below.

“I slowly rolled by to get a better idea of what was going on, and once we realized that he was about to jump, we stopped the truck and started talking to him,” Gaebel said.

Within moments, the two were out of their truck. While Anderson called 911, Gaebel kept his focus on keeping the man’s attention on him.

“The guy yelled out at us, ‘What do you two care about me?’” recalled Gaebel.

“We care about you,” replied Gaebel. “You’re a person, of course we care about you. We all care about you.”

By now the police had arrived on the scene, and with the help of Gaebel and his truck, blocked off the flow of traffic. Still, tensions remined high.

“I could tell that he was scared,” said Gaebel. “There was a lot of pressure in the air, and I could just feel it. We had to keep him calm.”

In an effort to keep the conversation with the man going, Anderson set out to find a common bond between himself and this man he had just met.

“We asked him where he was from, why he came to Minnesota, and whether he has kids,” said Gaebel.

The two asked him if he wanted something to eat, or if he needed some money. The man turned down both offers.

Finally, Anderson asked the man if he would like a drink.

“We have beer in the truck,” Anderson said. “If I go get it, would you like to have a drink with me?”

The question caused the man to pause and look back at Anderson.

Seeing an opportunity, Anderson ran to the truck and grabbed a 12-pack of Coors Light and opened the case up to show the man the beer. Within moments, the man slowly crept to the other side of the bridge and back to solid ground.

From there, the man was transported to a local hospital, but not before one semi-final goodbye from the two heroes.

“’We hope you get all the help you need,” Gaebel recalled saying. “’We’ll talk to you as soon as we can.’”

One Week Later

Life has continued to be unpredictable for Gaebel and Anderson.

Anderson posted a short video of the rescue on his Facebook page, and almost immediately it went viral. As of this posting, the video has had more than 121K views and has been shared more the 1,400 times. The two have also been profiled on local, regional and national media outlets, including the like of Newsweek, The Washington Post and Miami Herald.

“It has been crazy,” Gaebel said. “Non-stop phone calls. Customers are coming up and thanking us. People in the street have recognized the truck and stopped to thank us as well.”

While neither Gaebel nor Anderson asked for the attention, everyone at Breakthru strongly feels that it is well deserved.

“Our entire Breakthru Beverage organization is extremely proud of Kwame and Jason for their act of heroism that contributed to saving a life that morning,” said Brad Redenius, Breakthru Minnesota vice president of sales. “The outpouring of response from the industry and community has been heartwarming and well deserved for these two men that demonstrated such great care and concern for a fellow human being.”

“Kwame and Jason epitomized our company values,” said Anthony Simone, Breakthru Beverage regional vice president of operations. “Not only were they heroic – going above and beyond to help an individual in great need – but they also showed tremendous courage and passion by staying the course and working through a very tense situation.”

Inspired by the heroic actions and kind compassion displayed by Anderson and Gaebel, Breakthru Beverage’s Operations Team has made a contribution to the Minnesota chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness through education and advocacy.

“Mental health is a real issue,” Gaebel said. “We all need to take the time to talk with other people and ask them how they’re doing and wish them a good day. We all need to talk to each other more often and just check in.”

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