Photograph of Brad Luddeke
‘Every Christmas I’d dress as Santa and drive out with a couple of colleagues to deliver gifts to disadvantaged kids.’ Photograph: Justin Clemons for the Guardian

Every Christmas, the firm I worked for raised money for disadvantaged kids in the area, and every Christmas I’d dress as Santa and drive out with a couple of colleagues to deliver gifts. Some years ago, we were returning to work in my pickup, and stopped at an intersection as the lights turned red.

We were in the middle lane, right in front of the lights, and I became aware of an SUV coming up behind us at speed; at the last moment, it switched to the righthand lane and carried straight on past the red light into traffic moving west to east. It slammed into another vehicle, causing it to veer off, then they both skidded to a halt. Seconds later, the lights turned green. I turned my truck sideways to block the traffic, jumped out and ran to the SUV.

Inside, I saw a man slumped over the wheel. As I hollered at my workmates to call the police and fire department, there was a loud bang and flames leapt from the car’s front. I had been a volunteer firefighter for many years and had attended automobile accidents before; seven years earlier, I’d even been called to the wreck of my own son’s car. Jordan’s tyre had blown out as he drove to work and he died of his injuries, aged 17. I’d struggled to cope with his loss, but remained dedicated to helping others when I could.

As the blaze grew fiercer, I knew the car’s battery had exploded and that there was no time to lose. Still wearing my costume, I dashed round to the passenger side, away from the flames. The door was locked and slightly buckled, but by pulling on the window frame, I managed to tear it open. It was a cold day, but flames were now rolling over the hood and I was sweating in my suit. I leaned in, unbuckled the driver’s belt and started to pull him across to the passenger side. That’s when he came to and, confused, started yelling and trying to fight me off. “Sir,” I said, “your car’s on fire – let’s get out of here.” He calmed down, and I walked him over to the safety of my truck.

Other than some cuts and bruises, he was fine. I left him with my workmates, who were still wearing their elf hats, and went to check on the driver of the other car, who was also unhurt. Then I headed back to the intersection, where I directed traffic around the burning vehicle until the emergency services arrived. The first two police officers on the scene laughed as they jumped out of their patrol car. “What’s happened here, Santa?” one of them asked. I briefed them, then they said: “OK, you probably have deliveries to make – we’ll take over from here.”

On the way back to work, I said to my colleagues: “What you saw, keep it under your hats, OK?” I didn’t want the notoriety. But an hour later I had a call from a friend on a local TV station – our daughters play on the same softball team. “Brad,” he said, “I have a picture here that someone’s sent in of Santa helping out at a traffic accident and Santa sure looks a lot like you.” I tried to deny it at first, but it was clear he knew, and I figured that if someone was going to break the story, it might as well be him.

The next day, my cubicle at work was decorated with model Santas, some wearing Superman capes. I hoped that would be the end of it, but the story was to have an unexpected coda. A couple of weeks after the accident, I agreed to a televised reunion with Michael Walker, the guy I’d pulled from the car. We met in a local park, where he was sitting at a picnic table with a young woman. We shook hands, he thanked me, then he introduced me to his daughter, Amber.

It turned out she had been estranged from her mum and dad, but returned home after the accident. What’s more, she had been a close high school friend of Jordan, my son. She had a file full of pictures of him that I’d never seen, and told me stories that made him live again for me. She said as soon as she’d realised who had helped her dad, she became convinced Jordan was somehow still looking out for her.

There were tears, from both of us, but knowing this family had been reunited, and the sense of my son having some part in guiding events, was immensely comforting to me – a real Christmas gift.

[Source:-the gurdian]

By Adam