On July 2, 1971, a 24-year-old student at Fresno City College went home after an evening at the race track.
On his way home, he noticed a strange “glow” and started driving towards what he assumed was a fire.
He arrived at a house that was completely engulfed in flames.Three young girls stood outside in their nightgowns. There was also a terrified mom shouting that one of her children was still inside the house.
The police had just arrived, but the fire department wasn’t there yet.
The desperate mother, Carol Magee, told the police and the stranger what room her baby was in — there was no time to waste.
FacebookSince the only people at the site were the police and the young college student, the police broke a window and hoisted the college student into a smoke-filled room, where the child was supposed to be.
The stranger found the baby and picked him up. Thankfully, the baby was completely unharmed. The young hero left through the window and then climbed out of the burning house. Everything went well, except that he was cut by the glass shards on the broken window.
Moments later, as the mother gratefully hugged her child, the mysterious student disappeared. At that moment, the ceiling collapsed and the child’s room was swallowed by flames.
The young man who saved the baby returned to his life and never heard anything more about the baby he had saved.
The local newspaper wrote a piece about the horrible fire, but they had no information about the mysterious good Samaritan who saved the baby that night. A friend of the stranger contacted the newspaper to inform them that the mysterious student’s last name was Freund.
However, the family couldn’t find the mystery hero, and they never got to say “thank you”.
When Cyndee Farr-Gutierrez, one of the little girls who had been outside in her nightgown that evening, wrote about the childhood fire for a class assignment, something happened.
She wrote a letter of thanks and sent it to the local newspaper, The Fresno Bee, and requested that they publish the letter as an advertisement.
If the student named “Freund” still lived in the area, maybe he would see it?
Journalists at The Fresno Bee decided to help Cyndee find the man who saved her little brother’s life in 1971. And they eventually succeeded.
At the end of last year, she and her sisters visited Rick Freund for the first time, and could finally give him their sincere thanks.
It was during this meeting that Freund was told that the child he had saved was a boy, Robert “Bobby” Magee. Bobby is 47-years-old and lives just outside Fresno. He works as a carpenter and is proud to be a craftsman.
Bobby also owns a pumpkin patch in Fresno where he works during the fall. He also runs a local blood donor organization, which usually has a blood donor bus in the area.
“We put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into our work, and I guess that’s what I’m most proud of, that every year we save lives,” says Bobby, whose project has collected 18,000 blood donations in the past 18 years.
Shortly after that first meeting with his thankful sisters, Bobby and his family met with Rick Freund in a restaurant. Bobby learned that Freund served in the Army as military police and owns a trucking company.
Unfortunately, Mom Carol would never have the chance to thank Freund face to face; She died in 2003. However, she had written her own thank you letter — from Bobby’s perspective. Bobby only learned of the letter when he was older.
Here’s what Carol wrote:
You saved my life and disappeared before my parents could express their gratitude; some heroes may not want to be thanked.
A thank you isn’t enough for saving my life. But I know that Mom and Dad will do their best to teach me what’s right and wrong, and to follow your example.
You saw what needed to be done and you did it. We will never forget you.
It’s obvious that Bobby’s own life was affected that night. He works to save lives, albeit in a more organized way.
For Rick Freund, it would not be the first time he was a hero in the right place at the right time. In fact, he rescued another stranger using the Heimlich maneuver and also saved a man’s life using CPR, at a funeral. The same thing happened a few years later, but that time, Rick rescued a man in cardiac arrest while they were out hunting.
Rick has received several awards for heroism and this quote summarizes his life story quite well:
“You see something wrong and you take a deep breath when you see that no one else will help. Then you go in and do it.”
Every time we end up in a situation where our help is needed, we are faced with a choice — should we intervene or just stand by and watch?
It is rare that we get to see the consequences of whether or not we decide to act.
On a summer night in 1971, a young man saw a family in need, lent a helping hand and continued on that track all his life. He never did any of it for the recognition.
Eventually, the boy he saved devoted much of his life to save the lives of so many more.
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