Jared Nebel could hear the screams a couple of blocks away.
It was a cold, wintery, blustery night, and at first he thought it might be kids playing, or even a fight of some kind. The wind carried the sounds away, but as he got closer he heard the voice more clearly, the voice of a child: “Help me! Please help me!”
The Lovell native wasn’t even supposed to be there. He had finished his day at West Metro Buick GMC in Monticello, Minn., where he works as the new car Internet sales manager, but had asked his friend Jeff, who he car-pooled with, to drop him off for a haircut in Big Lake, just west of the Twin Cities, where he lived. It wasn’t even the place he normally gets his hair cut, but it was on the way and he really needed the haircut.
Jeff had errands to run but said Jared could call him if he needed a ride home. Jared said he could call a cab.
“We knew the big storm was coming in, but all I really wanted was to get my hair cut,” Nebel said. “I had put it off a couple of weeks. I said just drop me off.”
Nebel got the haircut, and some dinner, and he tried to call Jeff, but Jeff didn’t pick up – and he always picks up, Nebel said. He tried to call a cab, but the company was closed from 6 to 10 p.m. to prepare for the storm moving in.
Jared decided to walk. He stopped at a market to pick up a couple of things, then set out for home. It would be a 15- or 20-minute walk. He set off into the building blizzard. It was about 7:30 p.m. last Thursday, Feb. 20.
“It was windy and coming down pretty good,” he said.
About halfway home, he heard “screams and yells, like kids playing,” he said, adding, “It was hard to hear because of the wind.”
Another block later, the screaming was more intense, and he thought it might be a fight, perhaps a domestic.
As he got closer, he heard the screams much more clearly – screams for help.
“I ran down the street, kind of jogging, and I heard ‘Help me, help me, please help me,’” Nebel said. The cries were coming from a driveway where four, large, square recycling bins were located near some homes. One was tipped over, he noticed.
Then he saw the young girl, perhaps 11 to 13 years old, trapped under the tipped bin.
“I said, ‘You’ll be all right,’ but that thing was heavy,” he said.
The girl’s family delivers newspapers and uses the recycling bins for the extras, Nebel found out. The bin was filled with bound newspapers, and when the girl put the last load in – above the lid line – the bin fell over and pinned her.
She wore boots, gloves, a thin stocking cap and winter bib overalls, but no jacket. Her jacket was inside her house – with her cell phone. And her father was working that night. She was trapped, cold and alone. Until Jared came along.
Nebel cleared a few papers away, then put his strong back to work.
“I couldn’t lift it up that much, but she slid out from under it,” he said. “She was crying but happy. Her leg was sore (where it was trapped), but she said she was OK, maybe a little numb. She was very thankful and really happy. I wanted to make sure she was OK, and she jumped up and down.”
The girl estimated that she had been trapped for about 45 minutes, and with her father at work and the storm getting worse, she was cold and frightened.
“The way she sounded, she was scared for her life. She was screaming at the top of her lungs,” Nebel said. “I went on home, and then it dawned on me what had happened. I think it was a miracle.”
Jared added up the circumstances that took him to that house: the haircut at a different salon than usual, not reaching Jeff, the unavailability of a taxi, his decision to walk home, the timing and the route he took.
“It couldn’t have happened without God’s help,” he said. “It was meant to be. I’m glad I was there to be God’s helper. The way everything happened, there’s a bigger power up there looking out for us.
“It was really dark, and it’s kind of a blur, but she was so happy afterward. It was pretty cool.”
Nebel, 33, is the son of Rex and the late Cheri Nebel. A 1999 graduate of Lovell High School, he has lived in Minnesota since 2005. He moved to Big Lake three years ago this coming summer.
by David Peck