The Truckload Carriers Association recently recognized Jimmy Levan, of Graysville, Ala., as a Highway Angel for his generosity in helping families stranded by Hurricane Katrina.
On the evening of Aug. 31, 2005, Levan pulled his rig into a Wal-Mart parking lot in Brookwood, Miss., thinking he would get some sleep after completing his delivery for Celadon Trucking, but his “break” turned into anything but that. With Hurricane Katrina on their heels, many Gulf Coast residents who were fleeing their homes had found their way to this Wal-Mart, seeking gasoline and supplies. But by evening, when Levan arrived, the pumps were empty and dozens of vehicles were stranded in the lot for the night.
“The sheriff had told people to vacate the property, but some people had grabbed everything they could when they left, and they had no gas and no place to go,” Levan says, who had realized that many of these people were families who would be forced to spend a warm night sleeping in vehicles stuffed with their belongings. He approached the group, which included an asthmatic woman and her pet dogs, and invited them to sleep in his empty trailer. The woman said she was concerned about her pets, but Levan told her they could sleep on the top bed with her. Although incredulous, she accepted the offer, knowing the evening would be much more comfortable in the air-conditioned trailer. So Levan unhooked his trailer, opened it up, and the woman and a few other adventurous folks climbed aboard.
Levan was soon playing host to about 50 to 60 people. But his generosity didn’t stop there. When he heard on his CB radio of a nearby station that potentially had gas, he drove some of the stranded motorists, who had credit cards and empty jugs, to the location. On the return trip, he decided to stop at a McDonald’s to help feed the hungry crowd. When he showed up with sacks full of at least 100 hamburgers, it was more than these people could fathom.
“If the world was full of people like Jimmy, we would all be better off,” the grateful woman wrote in a letter to Levan’s employer. “Please tell him that we, the hurricane survivors that were at that Wal-Mart, can never thank him enough.” Levan dismisses the unusualness of his generosity, explaining that he wanted to do this, “because a lot of people have helped me on my path.” He cites examples where strangers have given him assistance when he was stranded. “I believe what goes around comes around,” he says.
Levan received a Highway Angel lapel pin, certificate and patch for his efforts, and his employer, Celadon Trucking Services, also received a certificate for acknowledging a Highway Angel in their midst.