Laurie Harms lay on the cold concrete of her Fridley driveway, unable to move. The sun was just rising that cold winter morning, and help was out of reach.
A few cars and kids walking to school passed by, but they didn’t see her lying there in a black coat, hidden behind the garbage can that she planned to wheel up to her house. A slip on a patch of ice had brought her down hard.
“I screamed. I cried. I knew something bad had happened,” said Harms, 58, who works as a scrub nurse at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.
With the temperature in the teens that Feb. 1 morning, danger was real. Hypothermia would set in over time, and her injury could worsen if she didn’t get help soon.
She tried to scoot along the pavement, hoping to reach the car she was warming up and her cellphone to call for help. She barely moved a couple of inches.
She cried out again and again in search of help.
Walking to school, 11-year-old Colby Hansen heard the screams.
“I didn’t know if I should trust it or not,” he said. “My parents always told me to beware of strangers.”
As Colby got closer to the cries for help, he saw a woman on the ground, waving her arms. And he went to help.
Surprise at school
On Tuesday, Harms, in a wheelchair after a shattered bone was replaced with an artificial hip, joined dozens of others at Fridley Middle School to surprise Colby with certificates and applause for helping her. She only learned his name when he stopped by with a box of chocolates and get-well card after he noticed her car back in the driveway after her five-day hospital stay.
“I believe he saved my life,” Harms said.
If Colby hadn’t come along, she said, she might have lain on the ground for eight hours until students from the school about two blocks away passed by again.
Harms said Colby called 911 when he found her and calmly answered the emergency dispatcher’s questions.
An older boy who hasn’t yet been identified also stopped to help. Harms had him go to her car to turn it off and retrieve a blanket and her purse that she used as a pillow.
As sirens wailed in the distance, Harms knew help was on the way and told both boys they could leave. “I didn’t want them to be late for school,” she said.
Instead, both boys stayed.
“I didn’t want her to be alone,” Colby said minutes after school Principal Matthew Boucher, Fridley police school liaison officer Mark Mickelson and Harms took turns lauding him for making a difference while family, students and teachers stood by proudly.
Boucher said he only learned of Colby’s act of kindness after Harms called last week after she got out of the hospital.
“There was a note on my desk that someone wanted to talk to me about something a student did,” he said.
He was prepared for bad news. Those are the kind of calls principals often get.
Instead, he learned one of his sixth-grade students took the time to help a person in need.
“This is the type of person you want in your community,” officer Mickelson said before an unsuspecting Colby walked into a room filled with his family, fellow students, teachers, and Harms and her family. “There’s a lot of bad stuff in the news that we talk about and dwell on. ... We have a -year-old who did the right thing so let’s celebrate.”
Colby stood by, smiling and somewhat overwhelmed by the attention, as family and school photographers snapped photos. Mickelson offered to buy him lunch later this week. School administrators gave him 50 GRITs — tickets awarded students for good behavior that they can redeem for snacks and other items.
“It’s embarrassing because I don’t like standing in front of a bunch of people who are smiling at me,” he said. Then again, “the fact that a bunch of people want to shake my hand makes me feel better than I’ve ever felt before.”