A selfless act of heroism from history
Jesús García was only 25 years old when he was given the opportunity to save a town of 5000 from certain destruction. It is a rare opportunity that not many are forced to deal with. There are those who have secretly turned away from such dilemmas and saved themselves at the expense of others. Jesús García chose to give himself up rather than watch others die in his place.
The moment came in 1907 in a mining town located in northwestern Mexico. The train that Jesús García was operating had caught fire. The train was carrying car after car of highly explosive dynamite set for delivery in the mining town. Dynamite was the lifeblood of 19th and early 20th-century mining operations and shipments like this were common.
While it sounds like the plot of a Wiley Coyote cartoon the situation was deadly serious. And Jesús García knew just how serious it was.
On November 7th, 1907, the train was parked in the town of Nacozari, Mexico, when Jesús García spotted something alarming. The top of one of the cars carrying stacks of dynamite had caught fire.
García was serving as the brakeman for the train. Being a brakeman meant he was likely on top of the cars at the time. Brakes were attended to by wheels on the top of individual cars and keeping trains on the tracks was a fine dance of turning these brake wheels at certain intervals the slow the train.
From his vantage point, he saw the immediate danger of the fire near dynamite. The train’s firebox had caught fire and the wind was blowing hot coals through the air and onto the train’s dangerous cargo.
The sight was enough for the young man to jump into action.
The train was parked at the time of the fire. The driver was not on the train leaving the fire to burn while the train was still inside the town. Instead of finding the driver, Jesús García decided to become the driver.
He climbed down from his perch and ran to the front of the train and immediately threw the machine into reverse. Slowly, the train began to back out of the town of Nacozari and out into the unpopulated wilderness.
All the while, the fire continued to burn on the dynamite cars.
On his lonesome, Jesús García piloted the dangerous train out of town, out of sight of the houses, and continued to push it at full power away from the mining town. He made it over three miles before the explosion.
The fire eventually reached the dynamite causing the entire train to explode.
Jesús García died instantly but no one else did.
He saved the town. A dynamite train going up inside the city limits would have been catastrophic. Hundreds could have died.
But there was only one casualty instead.
In many towns across Mexico today, Jesús García is still revered as the hero he is. Many streets, plazas, roads, and courtyards are named for the young man who saved an entire town.
November 7th is still known as the Day of the Rail Worker and is celebrated by rail companies across the country often with days off and overtime pay.
The heroism, foresight, and sacrifice of Jesús García should be remembered and respected today.
He could have run and saved himself but instead, he took on a job that wasn’t his and put his life before that of everyone else around him.