My name is Tim Coon, and I have been driving for close to eight years. I’ve seen my fair share of everything the road has to offer, and I’ve suffered the same. Driving truck isn’t for everybody, but at one point we were viewed as the “angels of the highway”.
I had heard stories while sitting at the truck stop counter about the girls that “worked” the lot, but had not experienced it firsthand myself…until one night in San Antonio.
At the time, I pushed the envelope with my logs…and had pulled into a truck stop to grab some much needed sleep. Shortly after closing the curtains and climbing into the bunk, I heard a rapping right near my head above my side box. At first, I thought I was simply imagining things. This was quickly changed when I felt the rocking of my truck as if someone was stepping in followed by a slightly more aggressive knocking-still near my sleeper.
I immediately rose to my feet, I ripped open my front curtains. There on the ground, I saw a very young girl accompanied by an older man staring back at me with a cowardly grin. Considering this took place around 2am, it seemed odd that a “family” would be seeking help for gas money.
I reluctantly rolled down my window, and I was greeted with a proposition. “You lookin’ for company” asked the man. It finally happened-I thought to myself…. I was approached with the prospect of prostitution. After the man propositioned me, I looked directly at the young girl next to him. You could see a mixture of shame and that of fear on her face.. Even a blind man could see something was wrong with this picture.
I asked the man if he was a cop. To which he laughed and said he was a “manager of sorts, but definitely not a cop”. I blurted it out without a second thought- “So you’re her pimp, huh?!”. There was anger in my voice, and you could tell I was not just upset over being awakened from my sleep. With a smile, and a wink, he acknowledged my assumption.
By this point, I had gotten my shoes on and was ready for anything that may come from this interaction with this pimp.
I opened the door to my truck, and stepped down to their level. I placed my hand on this terrified girl’s shoulder while asking if she was “okay”. Before she had a chance to answer, her pimp knocked my hand away from her and started a heated argument with me. I stood in between the girl and the pimp while this took place until it turned from verbal to physical.
Now… I’m not sure how you were raised, or what your values are, but I was taught to never back down when presented the opportunity to stand your ground. The physical altercation consisted of me telling the girl to “get back”, the pimp pushing me, and me pushing significantly harder with him falling to the ground.
The thing that I learned right then and there was that these pimps are only used to dishing it out, and never getting a taste of their own medicine. This coward ran as fast as he could once he returned to his feet. Of course I pursued him, but I’m the furthest thing from a track star.
After I gave up my pursuit, I quickly returned to where the girl had been standing near my truck but could not find her standing there. I thought that she may have fled due to fear of punishment from the coward that I had chased off. I was partially correct in my assumption, but she did not flea to the safety of my truck.
I opened the door to climb back in to my rig, with every intent on contacting the police, only to find her sitting on my bed….shivering….crying….saying “I want to go home”.
I comforted her as best I could by telling her that she was safe now, and that he couldn’t hurt her anymore. She explained to me that if I were to contact the police, that she would surely go to jail..and all she wanted was her mother. Whether or not she would have been arrested for prostitution is beyond me, so I honored her wishes by not involving the police.
She was originally from Waco Texas, and had ran away to Dallas at age 13 to be with a man she met on the internet. She told me how he spoiled her in the beginning, and began to change shortly thereafter. Soon enough, he was entertaining friends with her and had bigger plans in Laredo.
It was by chance that they knocked on my door out of any of the other trucks at this sizable truck stop. They were making their way south, and needed money for gas to make the rest of the trip. In conversations she overheard between her pimp and others, it was his intent on trading her for a large amount of drugs with a contact in Mexico.
After hearing her story, it was nearing daybreak and we needed to do something to get her home.
I was able to locate her mother online, and called the moment I tracked her down. I stepped out of the truck, and explained the events as they had unfolded…that her daughter was safe, and that she was afraid of what would happen to her based on what she was forced to do. Her mother arranged to meet me in San Antonio just as soon as she could get there.
I climbed back into the truck, and passed my phone to the girl.
A feeling of relief overcame me while I sat listening to her voice as I heard the trembling fear vanish.
I contacted my dispatcher, and explained that I would be late for my appointment and would need to reschedule. He was beyond understanding, and made sure everything was taken care of. I then explained to the girl that I hadn’t slept in quite some time, and needed to close my eyes for a minute. With lips trembling, she asked “what if he comes back”… I simply pointed beneath my seat to my tire thumper and said “I’ll take care of it”. She simply smiled, and laid her head down while whispering “thank you”.
I sat up front with my legs stretched across to the jump seat, and my head resting against my hand attempting to rest. I was awakened by an awfully loud cellphone ringtone a little over three hours later. It was her mother, and she was trying to find out where I was parked. I told her where to find me, and I woke the girl up to be reunited with her family.
We waited in front of my truck for her parents to pull up, and when they did…you’d think it was the happy ending of an epic movie.
Many thanks were extended…hands shook…and my cheeks were attacked with pecks of gratitude from her mother. It is something that I will never forget as long as I live. And it will determine how I might act in similar situations should they arise.
I don’t consider myself a hero by any means, nor do I expect the accolades associated with such a title. I am simply a human being that saw another human being in need of help……. And that, my friends, makes me a “highway angel”. It’s time to reclaim our rightful place in the world and shake the negative image associated with chasing the white line.
At the time that this took place, the concept of an organization that focuses solely on assisting victims of human trafficking and educating the public (emphasizing on drivers) was something that eluded me…. That is, until the advent of social media.
I was first turned on to TAT by the one…THE ONLY…. Mr. Bobby Boofay himself… James McCarter.
I’m like many of you, and I’m addicted to Facebook. I’ve seen memes come and go. Posts claiming that if I “like” a picture, good fortunes will come my way…but up until that point, I had never seen anything addressing human trafficking.
After seeing James’s post, I quickly sought TAT out and became involved.
I am one of the many “YouTube truckers” out there, and I took a break from my rants and quirky videos to address human trafficking…more specifically TAT. I appealed with drivers, and others, to see beyond the stigma associated with the victims of human trafficking and to DO something about it. The video (viewable here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23rSFy5WISY&list=UU7Ztj8LSpNOs4gi3zzltAZA) gained a small following, and I was asked questions by quite a few drivers about TAT. My thoughts were if I was able to change one person’s views of the victims, then I’ve done my job.
I decided to take things one step further when I approached my carrier on the matter.
After speaking to the owner of my company, and the safety director, it was agreed that we would provide training materials to all of our drivers and educate them on the seriousness of the issue. I’ll tell you what… It’s an amazing sight seeing all of those TAT stickers in the windows of our trucks!
Beyond sharing TAT updates and information on human trafficking, I’ve also contacted a syndicated radio talk show host that many of us listen to when we’re driving overnight… George Noory of “Coast to Coast AM”. Will it come to pass?... who knows.. but it’s worth a shot, right?
The reason that I told you my story and what I’ve personally done is with one purpose in mind…. I’m personally challenging you to rise to the occasion in the effort to bring human trafficking to a screeching halt!
Before James, I had no knowledge of TAT. Frankly, I was unaware that human trafficking was such an issue….. I held all of the misconceptions about the victims trapped in that reality that each of you held at one point. It is all about educating the seriousness of the matter.
So…. What can you do?
LEAD FROM EXAMPLE!
You cannot expect to go into battle from the sidelines. And folks, this is definitely a battle. Please become educated with all of the materials TAT has to offer, and share your knowledge with friends…co-workers…family… complete strangers.
When you’re at a truck stop, or hamming it up on the radio.. take the opportunity to speak about TAT and human trafficking. When you hear the jokes or the derogatory terms associated with the victims, please remind them that these are someone’s daughter….. that they’re people…. And that they may very well need help breaking free.
If your company is not already affiliated with TAT, speak to them directly about providing training materials and cards to their drivers. First and foremost, the worst thing they can say is “NO”…. but why would they? When in reality, it costs them nothing…and they’ll be helping a very noble cause. But beyond this, it offers them something that is self-promoting in the way of ISO certification…. Other companies will see that they stand against human trafficking, and that will encourage them to continue to conduct business together.
Carry TAT fliers on your truck to share at truck stops that do not have them displayed. You’d be surprised how many truck stops are willing to tape them to the counter or to the entrance. Keep extra materials to hand out whenever the opportunity presents itself!!
Together, we can make a significant impact on the lives of the victims of human trafficking simply by doing the right thing.
Please visit http://www.truckersagainsttrafficking.org/ for more information on what YOU can do to help.