August 27, 2013
America’s letter carriers deliver letters and packages to nearly every address in the country six days a week. They also serve their customers in unexpected ways.
Letter carriers know and care about their neighborhoods and customers, and they can sense when something goes wrong. They’re often the only watchful eyes in a neighborhood when most residents are at work or school.
Sometimes letter carriers rescue elderly or disabled people living alone who are injured or in trouble. They smell smoke or a gas leak. They spot a lost child in the street, or alert police to a burglary in progress.
Whether delivering the mail or risking their lives to save others, letter carriers are proud to serve their communities. Here are just a few recent stories about letter carriers saving lives or preventing disaster.
Driving his mail truck on his route, Hopkinsville, Kentucky, letter carrier James Barton came upon a police car surrounded by a crowd. Then he saw the reason — a police officer was struggling to arrest a suspect who was resisting. The officer’s stun gun was having no effect on the suspect, and police backup had not arrived to assist the lone officer. While the crowd watched and did nothing to help, Barton — a former Army military police officer — helped the policeman handcuff the suspect, taking the officer and onlookers out of danger.
Danny Thompson of Fresno, Texas, was delivering the mail in Houston when he noticed smoke coming from a home’s window air conditioning unit. He knocked on the door and two children answered from behind locked burglar bars. Thompson told the children to warn any adults inside about the malfunctioning unit. When Thompson noticed that the smoke had intensified and no adult had come outside to investigate, he went back to the door. He told the children to bring him the keys to the burglar bars, entered and searched the house, and warned the children and adults in the house to leave. The house was soon engulfed in flames and destroyed, but nobody was injured.
Letter carrier Pam Pontius of Ormond Beach, Florida, saw something suspicious on her route. Two people in a van were driving around and knocking on doors. “This is shady,” she thought. Pretending to continue on her route, Pontius followed the van’s occupants to a house where an elderly couple had answered the door, and heard them offer to clean the couple’s house that day. Pontius could tell they were casing houses to rob. Calling a police detective’s number she had saved on her cell phone, Pontius summoned police. Police arrested the pair on several outstanding felony warrants, including sexual battery of a child. Inside the van, police found a 12-year-old girl — the daughter of one of the suspects, who did not have custody of the child. She was reunited with her legal guardians.
Streetsboro, Ohio, letter carrier Jason Jones is always greeted on his route in Cleveland by 91-year-old Jack Clair, who anticipates his mail and a friendly word. But when Jones noticed the man’s mail piling up, and no fresh footprints in the snow outside the door, Jones knew something must be wrong, so he called 911 and authorities assured him they would check. The next day, Jones still saw no evidence of Clair or footprints, so he called authorities again. This time, they entered the home and found Clair inside lying on the floor, unconscious and malnourished, and took him to the hospital, where he recovered.
Stories like these, which occur almost daily, are part of the value the Postal Service’s unique universal network provides, especially to rural communities and small towns.
Fredric Rolando is president of the National Association of Letter Carriers. NALC.org