Faith Put to the Test

The Stranger at the Side of the Road: Matthew Sissman and Paul Elie

First Recorded

June 20, 2015

Share

Read Other Conversations About

When he was nearly killed in a terrible car accident, Matthew Sissman was saved by a Good Samaritan who called 911 and stayed by his side until emergency services could arrive. In this conversation, Sissman discusses his experience and the spiritual gratitude it brought him with his childhood friend Paul Elie.

This story was produced by StoryCorps.

This story is a part of the American Pilgrimage Project, a conversation series that invites Americans of diverse backgrounds to sit together and talk to each other one-to-one about the role their religious beliefs play at crucial moments in their lives. The interview was recorded and produced by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity‚Äôs stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world. 

The Stranger at the Side of the Road: Matthew Sissman and Paul Elie

Read Other Conversations About

Transcript

Matt: The car drove down an embankment off of a highway and into a tree, and then the tree collapsed on top of the car. I was alive, but I did sustain some tremendous injuries. My ribs were all broken, my rib cage had to be reset at the hospital. Three of my vertebrae were broken and my right wrist had to be reset. I know at least one motorist witnessed the accident as it happened. This man lived the parable of the Good Samaritan and he stopped. He had to climb over a guardrail and hike down to where the car had nested. And I blacked out when the accident happened but then, as the car wound up where it wound up, I became conscious again. And he came down to the window, and the first words out of his mouth where, "911 has been called, the pros are on the way, you're going to be okay." The accident happened within the town of Colony, we have great EMT service. They showed up, within a half an hour, if that, a tree service had to be called because the first thing that had to be done before they could use the jaws of life on the car was the tree had to be cleared off of the car so that it wouldn't fall and cause any further injuries.

Paul: What happened to the good Samaritan? You're still in touch with him.

Matt: I had an opportunity to speak at the town board, to thank the EMT service. And I also invited the Good Samaritan whose name is also Matt. And he and his wife, and his two children, came to the town board meeting where I told the story and I thanked everyone. And for me, the killer was that he had his young children there with him and they were being told that their dad was a hero. And I know that the rest of their lives, when he wants to make an important point, and he really wants it to stick, he'll say, "You remember what happened when?"

Paul: So I go to visit you, I thought this was going to be grim.

Matt: There I was, all smiles.

Paul: There you were flowing gratitude, I haven't heard you utter a word of self pity in two years.

Matt: Stick around, there's that side. I have another friend that I have from when I was an undergrad. The first event that I did after the accident was he blew me tickets to a Rangers game. As I was walking over to get to my seat, there was a man who was already sitting in the row, and I was trying to get over, and it was kind of hard. And I looked at him and he just looked at me and he said, "It's okay. You can grab on." Albany, I probably might do that without asking or being invited, take his arm. But you get down to New York City, and people are different down there. And people might interpret it as a very aggressive act, but he said, "It's okay, grab on." My standard response, I look right into their eyes and I say, "Thank you very much, god bless you." It was an exhilarating kind of exhaustion that I had that day. There was tremendous hope that I was able to get down, see this game, get home, in one piece. And it was like, normalcy is returning slowly but surely.

The most important lesson that I take from all of this is that we're all totally connected in one way or another.

Audio Scrubber
0:00
Audio Scrubber
0:00

0:00/0:00

Opens in a new window