Carol Oster-Green remembers little about the afternoon last year when her car got wrecked and her head got whacked.
Still, she’s certain she knows this much: “God was with me, and he put Jeff there.”
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If you ever get in a tight spot, you might pray that the Almighty puts Jeffrey Cook of Gladstone nearby.
On Saturday, Cook received the Boy Scouts’ Honor Medal for Heroism. The award is given out rarely enough. Rarer still to Scout leaders.
Yet it couldn’t have been a tough sell.
On July 27, 2011, Cook was nearby when Oster-Green was pulling through the intersection of Northeast 72nd Street and North Prospect Avenue in Gladstone. She had a green light, but a car turning through the intersection late gunned the engine to try to avoid her. He didn’t. Cook recalls the turning car spinning around twice after the collision and Oster-Green’s sedan going “360 degrees and then some.”
The crash left Oster-Green injured, dazed and still moving through traffic.
Cook had been laid off from work the day before and was headed to QuikTrip for iced tea. (He’s since found work as a senior marketing manager.) He jumped out of his car and ran to help. He was briefly knocked to the ground by a passing car.
He tried to get Oster-Green to stop. He banged first on her front passenger window. Then he dashed around to the driver’s window — clipped again by the nose of Oster-Green’s car — and thrust his arm through the partially open window. He yanked open the door, and with smoke billowing from the car hood and gasoline leaking from a broken fuel line — just a spark away from a fireball — Cook was now running alongside the car.
He hung on to the open door — hopping on his left foot while his right foot stabbed at the brake pedal in Oster-Green’s Toyota Camry and doing his best to steer with his right hand.
Keep in mind, there were other people around. Only Cook, then 52, was trying to stop the car and get the then-74-year-old Oster-Green out of the way of traffic.
“This is why Scouting matters,” Cook said. “It teaches us to react and use life skills.”
He finally lodged his foot on the brake well enough to stop the car. He shoved the gearshift into park. He pulled the keys out of the ignition to kill any danger of a restart and went to work on Oster-Green.
He went through a quick checklist to assess her injuries — years of Boy Scout first aid training at work. Always prepared, he had a handkerchief for her bloody nose. He looked her close in the eyes and did his best to keep her conscious. He kept talking to her, even sang “Mockingbird” to comfort her until an ambulance arrived.
The Boy Scout honor for “unusual heroism and skill in saving or attempting to save life at considerable risk to self” is the second highest handed out by the organization and is typically reserved for Boy Scouts.
Leaders like Cook — he’s been at it for 24 years — rarely get the medal.
“Second nature just kicked in for him,” a grateful Oster-Green said Saturday. “I’m lucky and I’m grateful.”