June 29 was the day Susan Riley says she was fated to die, bleeding from the head as a fallen tree lay across her car roof, crushing it.
She was driving on Old Georgetown Road just south of the busy intersection with Democracy Boulevard in Bethesda when the powerful, violent storm that made national headlines swept through Montgomery County.
It was at that moment that a large tree limb slammed down on her car, crushing the roof of her Toyota and leaving her with a gash in her head that would later take 40 surgical staples to close.
It it hadn't been for a Good Samaritan coming to her aid in a pickup truck, Riley says she likely would have bled to death.
Ironically, the accident happened just yards from the cemetery where her mother, father and brother are buried, and on a day that would have marked her parents’ 80th wedding anniversary.
“It was the most incredible thing,” said Riley, 62. “This was meant to be the day I was going to die.”
Now, recovering from her injuries, she’s desperate to get in touch with the anonymous man who rescued her from her car and navigated treacherous roads to transport her to Suburban Hospital.
“There is nothing, absolutely nothing responsible for me being alive except for that man doing what he did,” Riley told Patch. “I would have laid there and died. I’ve got to find him.”
That evening, Riley said, she remembers she had been at a book club meeting in Rockville when she began to notice lightning -- at first assuming the flashes were fireworks. She decided to head home and began the drive down Rockville Pike back to Bethesda. She debated whether to visit the Bank of America in Wildwood to deposit a check, and at the last minute she decided to stop.
Her bank records indicate the time of the deposit – 10:31p.m. – just before she turned from Democracy Boulevard onto Old Georgetown Road and began heading south.
“Within a few seconds, I could see these things start coming up onto the road, like logs, just stuff blowing up and under the car. I was thinking, this is going to take out the underside of the car. Should I stop? Speed up? What should I do?”
Before she could make a decision, she saw a tree in the road in front of her taking up both southbound lanes and stopped. “That must be when the other tree hit me,” she said. “I don’t remember anything except the fact that I couldn’t get my head up in the car because the roof was right down on me.”
That’s when she heard knocking on the car’s window, and a man’s voice telling her she needed to get out. The man who came to her aid couldn’t open the doors, so he helped her out of the passenger side window and into his pickup truck.
Then, the two began the journey to Suburban. “Every time we turned around, there was another tree down,” Riley said.
Bleeding but still coherent, the Bethesda native was able to direct the man through the darkened streets. “It still hadn’t dawned on me I was in really bad shape,” she said.
Eventually, Riley and the man arrived at Suburban, where he gave his name to a nurse. In the confusion of the evening, however, the slip of paper on which he wrote his name was lost.
It wasn’t until later that Riley realized the extent of injuries – a gash that spanned from her forehead to the back of her scalp, exposing her skull.
More than a week after the accident, Riley still hasn’t been able to track down the man who rescued her. Most importantly, Riley said, she wants to find out if he made it home safely.
“At this point, I just want to find him,” Riley said. “I want to keep in touch with him for the rest of his life, and the rest of my life. I just want to find him and make sure he’s OK.”
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