PYLKAS: We were basically trapped in a bend of the river, where I-40 is traveling east-west, and the bend of the river came north-south over us, and here we are, trapped in between. So, we were on an island. Well, there were two young ladies, that were from, I believe it was the Memphis area, and they were in a Jeep Commander, which is a large SUV. They were on a road trip to Miami, because they were gonna go on a cruise. Well, they were adamant that they felt like their Jeep Commander could make it through that water. Anytime somebody that you see on a public service announcement on television, when they tell you “don’t go through water if it’s over your tires, or if it’s up to the bottom of your car,” don’t do it--they’re right. Cars float. Throw an aluminum can in the water, it floats; it’s the same thing. When I had my back turned, ‘cause we were out of our vehicles by now, standin around, what to do, and they decided that they were just gonna punch it and they were going to go through the water. Well, this water was probably, now about half a mile across; it was a river. They weren’t just driving across a street, you know, they were going to have to drive about half a mile through standing water, which eventually, they got about half way, and their car died. The Jeep died, ‘cause it was flooded. Well, I’m standing there and I’m looking, and I’m watching, and slowly you see the Jeep, start, it gets picked up, the front end, I guess because of the engine block, starts to tip down, the back end goes up in the air—kind of a reverse “Titanic”—and all-of-a-sudden, people are starting to scream; you see them jump out of their windows, which were rolled down, and they start to float away toward, in the Harpeth River, which was moving quite quickly.
There was one man that was standing next to me, and I remember him turning to me, and right in my face, in my personal space, screaming at me “Do something!” And I’m like, ‘uh, uh, what do you, you know, what, what can I do?’ So I’m caught between being a regular person and being a police officer. Public, you know, public servant, you know, community caretaker, and then me, just being a regular citizen in Nashville, you know. I don’t have any equipment with me; I have just as much as he did. Um, but, there was a trucker that was at the very front of the line with a very large semi—um, first of all, what I did, is I put out a radio call, ‘Can anybody come to me?’ But I really honestly knew that there wasn’t anybody that was gonna be able to help me, because there were hundreds of incidents, drownings, flooding, happening over the city. You know, what was somebody gonna be able to come to me and do? And these people were already floating away. Well, I talked to this trucker, and I tell him, and this is almost, kinda, like right out of a movie, and I wasn’t really thinking at the time, I said, ‘I’m gonna get on the floorboard, the running board of your semi, and you just get up as much steam as you can, and just hit it, and then when I get there, to where they’re floating, you just keep going as fast as you can, and I’m just gonna dive off.’ Well--if you really think about it though, what was, I was gonna be in the water with ‘em, and what was I really gonna do to help them? And actually, I was probably gonna make the situation worse, because, guess what, I was making myself a victim at the time—but, I felt like I had to do something, because there were a lot of people looking at me: “Do something—save us, you know—do something.” So, I got on it, and I remember we were about half way there, and I’m holding onto the mirror of the semi, and he was a country gentleman, and I remember him saying to me in a very rural, country voice, uh, tone of voice, he said, “Officer?” And I said ‘Yes sir?!’—‘cause we’re yelling out the, out through the window at each other—he goes, “you know, that gun belt’s gonna weigh you down, and you just gonna drown.”
PYLKAS: Um, and at the time, I was kinda like, ‘wow, you know, you’re right,’ and I kinda had a flashback of Saving Private Ryan, and a lot of those soldiers on Normandy being drug under the water, and, because of all their equipment, so I thought, ‘(?well?) that is a good idea.’ So I take my gun belt off, and one of the rules of a police officer is “you never give up your weapon,” never, never, no circumstances, but here I was, it was gonna drag me under; I gave this man my gun belt, with the gun on it, and my police radio, my wallet, my Blackberry, which was my communication with the department, and this, my regular shoulder mike, and everything, and I gave it to him, and I told him, I said, ‘when you get to the next police officer, and I can guarantee ya, there’s gonna be more of ‘em down that way,’ ‘cause by this time, the department was callin everybody out, I said, ‘I’m gonna trust you, and I can tell, just by lookin’ at ya’-- ‘cause he was a good ol’ country boy--‘that you give this stuff to the next guy.’ And I acted like I was looking at the side of his truck, to see who he worked for and where they were at, just to kinda show him that I knew who he was and where he was at it if he didn’t do it, when, actually, I wasn’t lookin at it at all, ‘cause I didn’t know what I was doin—so I was just acting like I was. But anyways, I get there, and I dive off into the water, and he just keeps goin.
And, so here I am in the water now; it was up to my chest. I could actually stand; the young ladies couldn’t. But, out of nowhere, from the other side of the Interstate, one of my sergeants, who had been down in the River Plantation area doin water rescues, had come up on the Interstate, because she had heard me put out a radio broadcast that I was goin in the water to get these people, and she thought, “well, I better go help you real quick, and then I’ll go back to River Plantation.” She comes from the other area, just wading into the water, and luckily, things got delayed for the young ladies, and we were able to get to them because they got tangled up in a bunch of—sunken, now—barbwire fence, that had a lot of debris in it, and they were hangin on for it for dear life. Well, then all-of-a-sudden, out of the water from the other side from where my sergeant was coming, came a work truck, and I believe it was powered by natural gas or something—it was like a propane truck of some sort, I’d never really seen one of those before, but it didn’t drown out. There were two male Hispanics that were driving it; they didn’t speak English, come to find out, when once they dove in the water with me, ‘cause I was tryin’ to talk to them, and they were tryin’ to talk to me, and we couldn’t understand each other, but we ended up understanding each other just because of the situation of what needed to be done. One of ‘em jumped out with a rope, had it tied to a wench on the front, and my sergeant and I, we floated over to these two young ladies and grabbed ‘em and just started dragging ‘em back into the back, the flatbed of this big, huge truck, and then they gunned it, and out of there we went.
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