On June 24, 2010, Branden Bonge and Cody Clemmons were awarded the Carnegie Hero Medal for their heroism.
14 months earlier, on March 25, 2009, Branden L. Bonge, 28, of Valley Mills, Texas, and Cody L. Clemmons, 44, of Crawford, Texas, helped save three people from burning in a sport-utility vehicle that crashed and overturned in Waco, Texas. Bonge rescued sisters age 9 and 10 while Clemmons helped rescue the driver, a 34-year-old woman.
This is their story.
By Mia Evans-Saracual
CBN.com –Operator: “911, what’s your emergency?”
Cheri Clemmons: “There’s been a really serious accident. We have a vehicle that is upside down and on fire! These people are trapped and we need the Jaws of Life. We need help now!”
Four lives intersected on Highway 6 in Crawford, Texas that day. Cheri and Cody Clemmons, Lisa Bowdoin and Anthony Russo all met in the midst of tragedy. But all say they had a supernatural encounter on that rain-slick road that changed their lives forever.
Lisa: “I was on my way home from work. It had been raining all that day. I just lost control.”
Lisa’s SUV slid into the path of Anthony’s oncoming car.
Anthony: “I remember seeing the car come through my windshield, and that’s it I blacked out.”
The impact flipped Lisa’s SUV multiple times, crushing Anthony’s car. Both drivers were trapped.
Lisa: “My feet were on fire. The car was filling up with smoke.”
Anthony: “There was fire coming in through my left door. And it burnt my arm, my leg. I didn’t feel no pain or anything like that. I just knew I wasn’t going to die this way. And the steering wheel was stuck in my chest. I couldn’t move.”
Anthony blacked out a second time. Lisa began to pray.
Lisa: “I just remember saying, ‘God help me.’ And it seemed like when I had that peace come over me that everything was going to be okay is when Cheri showed up.”
Cheri and Cody Clemmons saw the wrecked vehicles, and raced to help. Cheri called 911… then she cried out to God for a miracle.
Cheri: “I could just feel the gift of faith stirring inside of my chest that ‘Nobody is going to die here today! Nobody! I’m not going to watch anybody die. God is going to show up!’”
The couple ran over to Lisa’s burning SUV. Cody climbed inside to try to pull Lisa from the growing flames.
Cody: “God gave me the courage to go in there because I told Him right there I was scared. I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to burn up. The next thing I know I’m in the car.”
Lisa: “I was upside down and the seatbelt I kept trying to release it, but it wouldn’t release.”
Cody: “I handed her the knife and she cut the seatbelt and she fell to the roof. The next thing that happens is both her and I realize that she wasn’t coming out of the vehicle. The roof had been crushed and there was not much room, maybe less than 8 inches for her to get through.”
In a split second, the impossible situation turned into a divine rescue.
Cody: “When I reached out, we grabbed each other’s hands. There was another set of hands that grabbed our hands.”
Lisa: “As I saw Cody’s hands, I saw a set of white hands around his. As he started pulling me through, it was just a burst of white light.”
Cody: “Before I knew it we were both outside the vehicle.”
Cheri, who had been standing next to the SUV, witnessed the whole thing.
Cheri: “God sent an angel to pull Lisa out of that car! I saw this bright white light and then I saw these hands reach past me, where there was no room and they grabbed a hold of Cody’s hands and Lisa’s hands. And all of a sudden it was like boop! Cody and Lisa were on the grass next to me.”
Lisa: “It could only be God’s angels pulling you through there.”
But the worst was far from over. A few feet away, Anthony lay unconscious, with no way to escape the fire consuming his car.
Cheri: “There was this huge explosion and the flames just completely rolled over the car and over Anthony, just consumed it in the black rolling flames. And I just screamed. I said ‘God send your angels now!’”
At that moment, another eyewitness saw a second miracle unfold.
Theresa: “I was just crying out, ‘God, You’ve got to help this man! You’ve got to help this man!’ And he seemed to just emerge through the door and he just kind of floated out on the ground. So I believe God sent supernatural angels here to get him out of that vehicle.”
Even though Anthony lost consciousness during the accident, he says there’s no doubt who rescued him from the fiery crash.
Anthony: “It was definitely God. Definitely. I feel like what happened to me was a miracle.”
Cody: “I can only say that the Lord sent an angel and removed Lisa from the car, because she was not gonna come out of that car. And He also sent an angel and pulled Anthony out of his car because he was not coming out of that car either.”
Soon after, firefighters arrived to douse the flames.
Cheri: “God had already pulled everybody out of the vehicles and everybody was on the grass. And all of a sudden we look over and everybody looks and there’s this huge rainbow just completely encompassing the entire scene.”
Lisa and Anthony were taken to the hospital with serious injuries, including broken bones and severe burns.
Lisa: “I went through eight months of rehab. And I’m able to walk. Recovery has been great. My burns have healed with no problems, no skin grafts. That was another miracle that happened.”
Anthony: “It took me I think over a year (where) I was going between a walker and crutches, and then from crutches to a cane. I feel good to be walking with a cane, but I still want to walk without one.”
Two years later, the miracle on Highway 6 remains etched in their minds: a day that desperate prayers were answered, precious lives were saved, and God orchestrated a heroic rescue.
Cody: “He’s an awesome God because He loves us so much. So I think it’s His mercy, being covered and protected with the Blood of Jesus, and that’s what it was. The angel of death – or whatever – passed over. He didn’t have any right, he had no authority to take anybody’s life that day because Jesus was there and He pulled them out.”
Cheri: “God answers the fervent heartfelt cry, our fervent heartfelt prayers–God answers those and He delivers us.”