By Barry Simms
BALTIMORE (WBAL) — It was a wrong turn at the right time: A motorist saw a critically injured man lying in the street — what he did next saved his life.
The victim, Damon Walker, has wanted to say thank you for 25 years, but couldn’t find the good Samaritan, until now.
“It’s almost surreal. It’s like it’s not really happening,” Walker said.
Walker has been on a roll, fulfilling a wish to find the man whose selfless act 25 years ago saved his life.
“When it does happen, it’s going to hit me like a ton of bricks,” Walker said. “I’m nervous, but I’m happy nervous. It’s a good nervous.”
It happened in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day in 1996. Walker had just left a celebration and was standing near Baltimore’s Hamburg Street Bridge when he said he was robbed and shot. Seconds later, he saw beams of light coming toward him.
“I hear two gunshots. They were very loud. I saw a lot of people run,” Dr. Michael Franks said.
On that same morning, Franks, a University of Maryland medical student at the time, was also leaving a celebration. A wrong turn put him on the path of the gunfire. He saw a man who had been shot lying in the street.
“I knew he was in trouble and he didn’t have 10 to 15 minutes for an ambulance to come,” Franks said.
Franks put the man in his car and rushed the critically injured stranger to Shock Trauma only a few minutes away. He gave a statement to police then moved on with his life. Walker did the same.
Although the gunshot left him paralyzed, he was thankful to be alive. He learned how to get around his home, take care of himself and became a violence prevention specialist at a Baltimore hospital. However, there was something he needed to do.
For years, Walker remained determined. He wanted to find the man who saved his life. Recently, his mother spent several months on the internet. She finally did find the right Michael Franks.
“I grew up in Baltimore. I was the third of four children. Working-class family,” Franks said.
Franks is now a physician at Virginia Urology in Richmond, Virginia, specializing in cancer therapy. He’s a soft-spoken man who said he’s uncomfortable with the spotlight on himself.
With nervous anticipation, Walker finally got Franks on the phone.
“Oh my gosh, this is the guy! And he’s got a name! I didn’t know his name,” Franks said.
That led to a reunion in Virginia. The two talked like old friends, reminiscing about a day when both wondered what the future would hold.
“Literally, I thought you were an angel. I couldn’t talk,” Walker said.
“You had a lot going on at the time,” Franks said.
“I kind of wanted to apologize for messing your car up so much,” Walker said.
“No big deal,” said Franks.
“I remember you went right against the flow of everything and came and got me. I don’t know a lot of people who would do that,” Walker said.
“I didn’t think about it,” Franks said.
“Can I give you a hug?” Walker asked.
“Yeah man, I’m not much of a hugger. I’ll give you a hug,” Franks said.
In the early morning hours of a new year, the lives of two men transformed.
“I think my action was heroic, but I don’t consider myself a hero. The time, the place, the circumstances. I acted. I didn’t think about it. I would do it again,” Franks said.
“It changed both our lives in a great way. He found purpose. I found purpose. It was a divine night for everything bad that happened. A lot of great good came out of it,” Walker said.
Because of the remarkable reunion, they are reconnected.
Franks said one thing has bothered him over the years. He wondered if his actions contributed to the spinal cord damage Walker suffered. That concern is now put in the past. He and Walker both believe he took the right life-saving steps.
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