It doesn’t matter whether you believe in angels.
Just don’t try to dissuade 86-year-old Francis Shannon. Wouldn’t do any good anyway.
The Mogadore man was blessed, not once but twice, to be visited by two of them.
The first time, one cold morning a little over a year ago, was the most critical. But the second time — which unfolded Thursday evening in the warmth of a restaurant — was just plain cool.
Al Lopez and his wife, Siamone, read about Francis Shannon’s beating-the-odds tale in a recent column, and set a lovely table for a just-made-for-Christmas reunion at their business, Siamone’s Thai Pub & Restaurant on East Waterloo Road in Springfield Township.
Lopez is friends with Tony Didado, the mystery motorist who placed a makeshift tourniquet on what was left of Shannon’s right arm after he was involved in a horrific one-car crash Dec. 12, 2011, on Gilchrist Road at the Interstate 76 underpass, an accident no one thought he could survive.
Yet, he did, thanks to some unofficial responders — Didado of Suffield, Mindy Weaver Owens of Mogadore and Shawn Palko of Goodyear Heights, each with a different role to play.
“That’s what the evening was all about,” Shannon’s daughter Sharon Brustoski of Fairlawn agreed, thanking those who acted heroically in a gruesome situation that resulted in the loss of her father’s right arm.
Still affected by what she witnessed, Owens recalled how she left 15 minutes early for work that morning, something she said she had never done in five years.
Witnesses described Didado as the man who came out of nowhere and calmly leapt into action. He was driving his daughter Sabrina to Archbishop Hoban High School when he noticed a traffic bottleneck just ahead. He soon realized there was a terrible accident.
Didado, vice president of J.W. Didado Electric Inc., seemed to somehow channel the skills of his wife, Cynthia, an emergency room nurse.
He assessed the situation and went to Owens’ car to ask if she had blankets. She had four. “I could see she was pretty shaken up,” Didado said. That’s because she saw part of the man’s arm in the road.
‘Somebody is dying’
Didado had trouble getting to Shannon, who was upside down in the car, losing a lot of blood. He used one of the blankets to keep Shannon warm on the 20-degree day, another to elevate his head, which was sticking out the window.
“My only thought is ‘Somebody is dying by himself. What a way to go! I just want to comfort him.’
“I held his head. His eyes were open. But I think he was in shock,” Didado continued, adding: “I kept telling him he was going to be OK … I prayed a Hail Mary.”
Shannon’s daughter, who had journaled everything about her father’s accident, was grateful beyond measure for the effort these strangers made on behalf of a man they didn’t know.
Owens remained in her car “on my phone praying with friends from my church.”
Once the paramedics arrived, Didado and Owens marveled at the speed at which they were able to free Shannon from his vehicle and place him in the ambulance. “It took less than two minutes,” Owens noted.
In the chaos, none of the parties ever introduced themselves to one another.
“I wasn’t able to drive after what I saw,” Owens said. “I had to call a friend from church … The two of us sat in the car and prayed for him [Shannon]. It was horrible, just horrible.”
Didado, injecting a little humor into the reunion, told Francis Shannon, “You look a lot better than the first time I met you.”
Shannon, a man of few words, managed a smile.
He said he doesn’t remember anything about the accident.
These days, he’s adjusting to his new life as a left-hander, made possible in part by his “angels” and great medical care at Summa Akron City Hospital and later at Select Specialty Hospital.
Back to bowling
He’s even back bowling at Bill White’s Akron Lanes where he used to be, as a right-hander, on several leagues.
As encouragement, Shannon was presented with a gift certificate for special instruction at the bowling alley.
Palko who did not attend the reunion, provided assistance on the scene. “I called 911. … I was the one who found his arm in the road.”
Palko said once he determined he was no longer needed, he left for his job in Kent.
“I tried to find out about him but nobody would tell me anything,” Palko said. “Finally, I did get a call from Mr. Shannon’s daughter, who found my name on the police report and I visited him [months later] in rehab.
“Personally, I think he’s a miracle. God definitely has a plan for him because it didn’t look like he was supposed to live … He certainly has a lot of life left in him. He’s a real fighter; a real survivor!”
Owens said she learned Francis Shannon’s name from a parent at a game who saw her Facebook posting about the incident. “I Googled another friend and ended up talking to his [Shannon’s] grandson about what happened, then later his daughter.
“After a while, I had to stop reading the emails. It was really a hard time for me,” Owens said. “I’m still traumatized. … Every day I drive on that road, I think of him.”
But at the same time, Owens, who was baptized two weeks before Shannon’s accident, said she believes she was placed on that road at that time for a reason.
Seeing Francis Shannon happy and healthy more than a year later was certainly an affirmation of everyone’s faith.
Which, in many ways, makes Shannon’s survival the real Christmas present for each of them.
Jewell Cardwell can be reached at 330-996-3567 or email@example.com.