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A car fire, a hero nearby

PeopleTanya Hart, Gap Inc. blogger6 Comments

Inside the company, we hear every day about the many things our employees do to impact the world around them, whether it’s volunteering, or holding grassroots fundraisers to help the family of a fallen soldier.

But it’s not often we hear about one of our own literally saving lives.

Sarah Batchelder was on the phone with her boss when she realized the car in front of her was on fire.

It was a few months ago and Sarah, a district Loss Prevention manager for Banana Republic, had just left a store opening in Massachusetts. She saw the SUV in front of her start to smoke, told her boss she’d have to call him back, hung up and started honking her horn.

By the time the car pulled over, the fire had grown. Out jumped a mom, four children under age 11, and a dad holding an infant. The mom looked like she was getting ready to go back and grab things out of the car. Sarah, who had also pulled over, yelled, “Let’s go,” and motioned her away. Then she called 911, her face still hot from being so close to the flames.

Sarah is receiving a Hometown Hero award from The American Red Cross in March for her bravery that day.

“I remember these four children staring up at me,” Sarah said. “We just sat on the side of the highway for hours and I distracted them while the adults dealt with the fire.”

She pulled her own kids’ booster seats out of her car so the children didn’t have to sit on the grass, and gave them toys she had. When the fire got worse, she put the kids into her own car, away from the smoke.

A chance to help further

It turns out the family was in the process of moving from Massachusetts to Maine, and much of what they owned sat smoldering inside the older-model Suburban.

As she was driving home that night, Sarah called her boss, and said, “We’ve got to do something.”

Emails went out, and within 48 hours, employees had donated $1,000 in gift cards, plus clothes, car seats — almost new — and other necessities. This more than replaced what they lost.

“I remember talking to my husband about that and I just started crying. No one questioned — they just donated.”

She’s still in touch with the family – the Chins. They were so grateful to her that they sent her letters, drawings, gifts and thank yous. They texted a lot in the days following the fire, to check in on each other, and now they are friends.

Sarah has been with Gap Inc. for 20 years — it was her first job and Gap, she says, has influenced her almost as long as her parents.

“I admire this company so much because people here act without thinking — because it’s the right thing to do.”

“I was lucky I was there that day,” Sarah adds. “I’ve grown so much because of this.”