As the first real snowstorm fell last week, many students got out of class to find the roads in less than ideal condition. As cars were piling up on 21st Avenue East, and seemingly everywhere else in Duluth, Chris Anderson and Steve Aro were waiting by the phone.
Anderson, a junior at UMD, had posted on the Facebook group Overheard at UMD that he and his 1999 Chevy Suburban were ready to help students who were stuck or couldn’t get up Duluth’s treacherous hills.
“You know, snowstorms happen; everyone kind of sucks at driving,” Anderson said. “I decided, ‘Hey, if anyone needs help, I’ll be there.’ Usually, I have some free time here and there. I’ve got the equipment to help them, why not?”
Aro commented on the post that he was also willing to help students.
“I guess when it comes to helping people out it’s just more of a second nature kind of thing,” Aro said. “Most of the time when I know something’s the right thing to do, there’s not a whole lot of thought involved about what I should do.”
He added that growing up in a small town helped instill in him the idea that you should help people when you have the ability.
“I’ve got my truck stuck pretty bad a few times, and five of my buddies were there to help me out 15 minutes later, no questions asked,” Aro said.
Aro didn’t have to help anyone from UMD out of the snow, but his neighbor called him that night asking if he would travel to Cloquet to get his aunt and uncle out of the ditch. He added that last year during snowstorms he helped people out around campus.
Anderson only had to help one person, UMD student Ashley Holscher, on Monday night, towing their vehicle from Lake Avenue all the way to Campus Park on top of the hills.
Holscher’s timing belt in her Subaru Legacy had broken the previous week, and it finally died in downtown Duluth. She had left the car there for a few days until some of her mechanic friends could look at it. But when the snowstorm came, she knew she had to move it.
“When I heard about the snowstorm that Monday, I was worried the city would either tow me or a snowplow would total it,” Holscher said. “When Chris said he could help people on Overheard, I thought it would be worth a shot.”
Holscher messaged Anderson on Facebook, who quickly responded that he would be there shortly. They tried to jump the vehicle to no avail. Anderson towed the car back to Campus Park with Holscher in the vehicle, steering.
“It was scary sitting back there since I didn’t want to hit the break and possibly tear off my bumper, but at the same time I didn’t want my car to crash into his bumper,” Holscher said.
“Yeah, it was (a long trip),” Anderson added, “and it was kind of sketchy, but we made it.”
“Overall it was fantastic and he made my night 100 times better as it was one less thing to worry about,” Holscher said. “Chris is definitely the definition of ‘Minnesota Nice.’” He helped out a total stranger and didn’t even want to accept any money that I wanted to give him for helping me out. It really goes to show there are still amazing people out there, and the world would be a better place if we all helped each other out like that.”
The Maple Grove native said that several other people contacted him throughout the day, but they all called him back before he could arrive, saying they had solved their respective problems.
Anderson’s post on Overheard has over 750 likes and a number of comments praising him. They range from “You the real MVP” to “Someone give this man a scholarship.”
“I think it’s funny,” he said about the comments. “I think we live in a society that people don’t expect anybody to help them out. And me driving by saying, ‘Oh, let me help you pull your car out of the ditch,’ ... you know, they’re just astounded that there are people out there that will help.”
Anderson said that he was ready to help people out all day; attending class was lower on his priority list.
“I was willing to skip a couple lectures just because I can always catch up on that later to help people out,” Anderson said. “There’s sometimes priorities when it comes to that stuff. I mean you can get by missing one class, but if someone’s car is stuck their day is ruined.
“And missing class isn’t going to ruin my day,” he added with a laugh.
Aro said that helping people is its own reward.
“Most people are always very happy for the help,” Aro said. “A good amount of people offer cash, but I’ve always told them it’s all right and to hang on to it and pay it forward instead. It’s always great knowing you made someone’s day a little bit better and hopefully they pay it forward and can make someone else’s day.”
Aro drives an F-150 with four-wheel drive. As for Anderson, he says he loves driving in the snow with his four-wheel-drive Suburban.
“It’s kind of an older classic, if you will,” Anderson said. “It’s an absolute workhorse and it gets the job done. It’s got the 350, four-wheel drive; you can tow anything.
“Love (driving in snow),” he added. “It’s got back-wheel drive, so I can kind of spin around corners, but then you kick it in four-wheel and you’re cruising like it’s nothing.”
Anderson and Aro said that they’ll be available all year for students who need a tow. As for being called a hero, Anderson doesn’t quite agree with the title.
“I’m not really a hero, (I’m) more of just a guy trying to help people out,” Anderson said. “There’s (the) fire department, police, those guys are heroes, you know, military. I’m just another guy going to school helping people out.”
BY SAM STROM News Editor