Brady Wilson is one of those who benefited from the Mississippi Valley State University’s graduation Saturday. He’s in his 20s but not a student, wouldn’t get a degree, and was more than 50 miles away, driving his car to work a couple of hours before the ceremonies were to begin.
On an unlit stretch of Mississippi 17 in a hilly, wooded area between I-55 and Lexington, in a pouring rain, Wilson drove his car into a small valley between two hills at the same moment a tree toppled onto the roadway.
The tree landed on the front end of his car, peeled the hood off his vehicle and leaned it against his windshield as it tossed the car 100 feet down the roadway. Wilson had blood on his face and hands, an intense pain in his back and was pinned in his car.
In the car behind Wilson on that stretch of Mississippi 17 was Johnny D. Jones, assistant vice president of academic affairs at MVSU. Jones, 46, was making his usual 95-mile commute between his home in Madison and the job he took in February at Valley. He was on his way to play a role in the graduation ceremonies.
“The tree fell between two hills, and it was raining so you really couldn’t see the tree when you came over the hill,” Jones said. “I came over the hill and saw the tree falling. I saw his car coming through it, and it hit. I said, ‘Oh, man!’ ... It tore his whole hood off, and it was in the windshield.”
Jones pulled over, called 911 and got out of his car to see what he could do, in the dark, in the driving rain, in a blind valley. He was on one side of the tree, and Wilson was on the other, so he worked his way through the branches and found the battered car.
“He was still inside the car, and he was in a lot of pain,” Jones said. “I could hear him say, ‘Help me, help.”
Jones said Wilson was still alert and told him he had pains in his back. Jones told him he might have hurt his spine and to lie still to keep from making it worse.
“While I’m trying to help him, I’m flagging down other cars, telling them to ‘turn around, turn around, turn around.’ Then another car came through, and that car ran through the (branches of the) tree. I said, ‘OK, I gotta go stop this,’ so I drove my car to the top of the hill to block off traffic so traffic wouldn’t come over the hill.”
The 911 dispatcher had already told Jones that the ambulance from Lexington was already busy at another car wreck 5 miles up Mississippi 17 from where he was. She told him another unit would be sent from Kosciusko.
“Then another car ran through the tree and flipped, and I had to run back through the tree to help out that guy. He took two steps and fell out, so I’m tending to him and trying CPR,” Jones said. “And while I’m tending to him, I hear screeches and two other cars hit the tree.”
An ambulance arrived in what to Jones seemed like 30 to 40 minutes to tend to the injured. The man who had passed out came to and would be all right, if in pain, Jones said.
Wilson was taken to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. Jones said Wilson suffered fractured vertebrae and will be in a back cast for weeks. When Jones stopped by to visit him on Monday, his mother, Lashea Wilson, posted a photo of the two of them on Facebook and shared the story, calling Jones a hero and a guardian angel.
“I went to visit him in the hospital, and his mother just broke down and started crying,” Jones said. “... Brady saw me and said, ‘Mama, there he go.’ And she called me his guardian angel, the guardian angel for her son.”
Lashea Wilson said on Facebook, “A hero is an ordinary person facing extraordinary circumstances and acting with courage, honor and self-sacrifice.”
Jones sees it as an extension of his career in education, helping people.
“That’s what we all need to do,” he said. “We need to invest ourselves in people. I feel that God put me there for a reason because a young man that I don’t even know said, ‘I need help.’ And that’s what I did. I helped. And that’s what it’s all about, helping people.”
• Contact Gavin Maliska at 581-7235 or email@example.com.