Mike Remmel: A profile in courage and inspiration

January 09, 2007 11:00 pm

Betting against Mike Remmel would have cost you a fortune.

Not knowing Remmel, you might have given long odds to anyone wagering that the Jamestown-based California Patrol Officer would return to work a year after an accident that nearly cost him his life.

Consider the circumstances: Remmel lost parts of both his legs in a Jan. 10, 2006, crash at the Pedro Y near Columbia. At the time, a far more realistic question was whether he would survive.

A runaway pickup truck had hit Remmel head-on while he was helping a tow truck driver hook up a car that had been wrecked in an earlier accident. He was thrown 20 feet into the roadside brush, both legs crushed.

A passing motorist, Jennifer Corporandy, saw his body as she drove past the scene. She pulled over and ran to his side. "If this guy was dying, I couldn't stand him being alone," Corporandy said a month later.

Remmel lived, but a week later walking still seemed like a long shot.

That he might be on the job within 12 months was, at the time at least, too preposterous for discussion.

Yet Remmel drove to the CHP office in Jamestown at 8 a.m. today, walked in the front door and reported for duty. Not only that, but he fully intends to pass the demanding physical tests required for patrol and to return to the road within another year.

A miracle? Not to those who know Mike Remmel.

To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, Remmel is a profile in courage. Not only that, but he is an inspiration to his community and his coworkers.

His was an accident that would have left many discouraged, embittered and looking for someone to blame.

Not Remmel: Within a week, while still recovering from multiple surgeries at a Modesto hospital, he was focused on his goal.

A shrink told him to be distraught and bitter, to give into his anger. Remmel said he didn't have any.

"That truck got my legs, but it didn't get my head. It didn't get my heart, it didn't get my spine and it didn't get my spirit," he said a month after the accident. "My gold medal is to wear the uniform again."

Some might have humored him. Others might have pitied him. Few believed him.

But Remmel wasn't counting: Within a month of the wreck he began the long, difficult course of physical therapy that would lead him to the front door of the Jamestown CHP office. Drawing on the support of his wife, children and parents, he made remarkable progress.

By June, outfitted with new prosthetic legs, he was walking.

Along the way, he made us believers: First we helped Remmel, with blood drives and fundraisers that raised thousands of dollars for him and his family.

Now he's helping us, talking to fellow officers, other accident victims and community organizations about grit, perseverance and what's really important in life.

Yes, Mike Remmel must still pass that battery of physical tests before he returns to patrol. Only this time we all know better than to bet against him.

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Union Democrat editorial positions are formed through regular meetings of the newspaper's editorial board — Publisher Geoff White, Managing Editor Patty Fuller and senior reporter-columnist Chris Bateman.