by Dick Innes
Ronald Nunley screamed, "Oh, dear God, please help me!" as he was about to be roasted alive.
His miraculous rescue was reported in Reader's Digest1 by Sheldon Kelly.
Ron's twenty-five ton semi-trailer was ablaze. He was hauling a load of liquid fuel and was close to home when the accident happened. After passing another vehicle, he pulled back into the outside lane and, not seeing it in time, slammed into the back of a logging truck which had parked part way on Highway 17 near Georgetown, South Carolina.
The cab of Nunley's truck was crushed into a mass of twisted metal, compressed into a third of its normal size. Nunley was trapped inside, his legs pinned beneath the crushed dashboard and his chest imprisoned by the warped and bent steering column.
Two strangers, Douglas Keltz and Andrew Collins, seeing the accident, stopped their cars and rushed to Nunley's aid.
The passenger side of Nunley's vehicle was buried under a mass of burning logs. His fuel tanks were hissing from the fierce heat. Keltz and Collins were frantically working to free him.
"I'm carrying fuel," Nunley managed to warn his rescuers as they tore off one of the truck's doors and crawled into the already smoldering and oven-hot cab.
Try as they might, Keltz and Collins couldn't free Nunley. Every moment counted. The fire was rapidly increasing in intensity and all three men knew that time was perilously short.
Collins ran to his car for his axe and slashed mercilessly at the twisted steel cab, swinging dangerously close to Nunley's body.
Suddenly, there was a deafening roar as the fire erupted out of control.
"This is it!" screamed Nunley. His whole explosive cargo was aflame. He was terrified that his rescuers would run for their lives before they could free him.
But Collins and Keltz didn't run. Furiously they worked. Steel crashed against steel until the last piece pinning Nunley was butchered away. Quickly, Collins and Keltz pulled Nunley's bloodied body clear of the burning inferno.
Just in time. Moments later the entire cab was consumed in a ball of fire, followed almost immediately by a sky-high explosion of liquid fuel.
In a special ceremony, Andrew Collins and Douglas Keltz each received the Presidential Medal of Honor. Ronald Nunley, who spent his twenty-eighth birthday in the hospital with head injuries, said he had received the greatest gift known to man—life.
"I thank God for bringing these two men together," he said. "Every birthday I have from now on will be because of them. They came within thirty seconds of death just so I could live."
It's frightening to realize how quickly a life can be snuffed out. One moment Nunley was fine, the next he was almost buried in a fiery grave of burning logs and liquid fuel.
In a very real sense all of us are in a similar situation. The problem is that we don't realize it because what is happening isn't compressed into forty-five minutes. It covers a lifetime and happens so slowly we don't notice it. We're like the proverbial frog who is boiled to death because it happens so slowly.
Many a student has seen this point demonstrated. The teacher places a hapless frog in a beaker of water beneath which he places a Bunsen burner. The flame is so low that it heats the water at only .017 of a degree Fahrenheit per second. The temperature rises so gradually that the frog is oblivious to any change. Without an ounce of resistance, two-and-a-half hours later the frog is dead—boiled to death.
Amidst the rush and hullabaloo of contemporary living, like the relentless beat of the ocean waves, or like the never-ending ticking of a giant eternal clock, Christmas and Easter come around every year as an inescapable reminder that, first, we live in a world broken by sin that is slowly moving us toward an inescapable and eternal death; and second, that God himself has come to earth to save us from our sin and the death it causes.
We have many ideas about what sin is, but because its effects take place so slowly, we tend to ignore it.
We think of sin mostly as external acts: a lie, a murder, a theft, a rape, and so on. True, these are sins, but they are merely the tip of the iceberg. Because most of us don't go around raping, killing, or robbing people, we don't consider ourselves as sinners in need of God's salvation.
We fail to see that our damaged and super-charged repressed negative emotions, our irrational fears, blind spots, emptiness, emotional dishonesty, damaged self-concept and mixed motives are also sinful. These are the sins of the spirit and possibly the most destructive of all because they are the causes behind most external sins, broken relationships, and physical and mental sicknesses.
When we begin to understand the total destructiveness of sin, we can begin to appreciate why God is so opposed to it.
Sadder still is the fact that our sin not only alienates us from one another and our own selves, but also from God, and ultimately leads to both physical and spiritual death.2
That's the bad news. But here's the good news. Like Collins and Keltz, who risked their lives to save Ronald Nunley, God saw us in our helpless predicament and came in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ, to save us.
When Jesus came to earth two thousand years ago he came not to risk his life, but, specifically, to give it on the cross. There Jesus died to pay sin's consequences and penalty so that we might be set free for all eternity.
My friend, Jesus died on the cross for you and now offers you a free pardon for all your sin and wants to give you the gift of eternal life. It is yours for the taking.
What would you think of Ronald Nunley had he rejected the gift of life given to him and never bothered to thank the men who risked their lives to save him? How foolish he would have been. But have you ever admitted your need to God, confessed your sins to him, thanked Jesus Christ for dying on the cross for you, and accepted his pardon and gift of eternal life? If not, why not in a simple prayer do so right now? To help you do this click on the "KNOW GOD" button below.
1. Reader's Digest, September, 1981.
2. See Romans 6:3