Rescuers an example of the good that is within us

By the Muscatine Journal Editorial Board

Ia few seconds, life tested some brave Muscatine-area residents, whose reactions say a great deal about them and their community.

At 8:30 a.m. Thursday, according to Muscatine police reports, Carla Hargrafen, 59, of Letts lost control of her Honda CRV on an icy stretch in the 3200 block of Cedar Street. Hargrafen, who was on her way to work at Unity Hospital, was eastbound on Cedar Street when she lost control of the CRV, which landed upside down and submerged in a creek near Discovery Park. Hargrafen — the mother of two children, grandmother of five and wife for the past nine years to Roger Hargrafen – died later in the day at the hospital where she had worked for a decade.

Her death is a sad and tragic chapter in a story that otherwise makes us very proud to live in Muscatine. It is reassuring to know we live amongst people who were willing to jump into waist-deep, icy water, pull Hargrafen from her Honda and onto land and begin administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation. They did this in the few minutes it took for police and firefighters to arrive. And then most of them left, returning to their daily lives and shunning publicity or thanks.

But theirs is a story that must be told. It began with Toni Wakeland, 27, of Grandview. She was one of the first to help. Wakeland was already at the scene after putting her car in the ditch on the opposite side of the road a few minutes before Hargrafen’s accident.

Destany Bender, 36, of Muscatine stopped to help Wakeland. Bender is five-months pregnant, but she called 911 and flagged down other motorists, who rushed to help Wakeland with the rescue effort. Those motorists included:

* Jonathan Soucie, 30, who works for Muscatine Power & Water’s service department. He was on his way to a service call when he saw the accident and stopped to help.

* Two Unity Hospital employees, Robin Grimm and Blake Jones. Both came upon the accident and jumped into the cold water to help with the rescue attempt.

Muscatine Police Officer Donyell Raisbeck also jumped into the water and helped with the rescue. Usually, she is the resource officer assigned to Central and West middle schools, but was on patrol on Thursday.

And last, but not least, is Gary Whitacre, president of Martin & Whitacre Surveyors & Engineers Inc. of Muscatine. He may have been the most heroic of all, going into the water first, helping untangle Hargrafen from an air bag, pulling her out of the vehicle and starting CPR after the others helped get her out of the water.

He doesn’t see it that way, however. “We always wonder if we could have done more or done something different,” he told the Journal in an e-mail. “The failure (however) is in not trying. Don’t stand at the edge of need. Jump in and do what you can to make a difference.”

Heroic.

Unassuming.

Eloquent.

It’s people like this, along with the other good Samaritans involved, who make us proud to call Muscatine home.

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