Several years ago as I was surfing the web, I came across a truly amazing story of a young, 28-year-old, Phoenix  officer who was horribly burned in a crash involving a taxi cab driver who, while driving, suffered a seizure.  On that fateful evening in March 2001, Officer Jason Schechterle’s Crown Victoria was stopped at a light.   A speeding taxi – piloted by a driver who was suffering a seizure – struck the officer’s car from behind at a speed approaching 100 miles an hour.

The Crown Victoria burst into a ball of flame, and the officer was trapped inside secured by his seat belt.  But, a Phoenix fire truck was nearby and responded to the  accident; the crew worked feverishly to free the officer.  As the fire fighters pulled the young officer from the crushed and still burning vehicle they wondered if they had done him a favor.

Fellow officers gathered at the Maricopa Medical Center.  Doctors, who had been home getting ready for bed, began to assemble expecting the arrival of a burn patient with possible third degree burns.  When Officer Schechterle was wheeled in, the doctors were stunned at his condition.  The burns were much worse than they had anticipated.

The doctors had to work in a stifling environment – 90 degrees to offset the loss of body heat that is attendant with severe burn cases as the blackened and dead skin is removed.  Fluid oozes from the body and the once-protective layers of skin no longer encase muscles and bones.

The officer’s face and head were destroyed by fourth degree burns – the likes of which the doctors had never seen.  As the doctors continued to remove layer after layer of skin, they began to realize that the result would be to leave the officer with no living tissue and literally no face.  But they continued with the knowledge that it was the only way to give the officer a fighting chance to survice.  In the morning, the doctors looked at what was left:  gone were the eyelids, the eyebrows, most of the nose and the ears.  He had no cheeks or forehead, no skin whatsoever.

As Officer Schechterle slowly regained his strength and began his road to recovery, he struggled with the reality that he would never be that young officer again.  But he and his wife knew that while he had lost his facial identity, he had gained a new role in life.   Today he speaks to burn victims and works on behalf of charitable organizations, inspiring others by his own struggle and survival.

Photo Credit:  http://www.uslawman.com


Photo Credit:  Google Images


And just why have I written about this officer?  Sometimes when we – and I include myself – struggle with our own physical difficulties, we need reminded of the heroes out there who have shown courage and spirit beyond compare.

In the morning I wake up in pain, and in the evening I go to bed in pain.  My hips were dislocated at birth, and, by the age of five, I had undergone three surgeries – one on each knee and one to insert a stainless steel pin in my right hip.  The other hip was “popped” back into place.  And to add to the hip dislocation, I was born with only partial hip shelves.

By the age of six, I had spent 20 months in body casts.  When those were removed I had to learn to walk again, and I had to wear  a knee brace for months – sometimes aided by crutches.  And, I had to go to physical therapy three times a week at the Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne for months and months.  Children can be cruel at young ages, and I remember being called names.

My parents had no one to help with me because in those days polio was a scare, and the neighbors and others that Mom and Dad knew were convinced that I had polio and was contagious, so they avoided being around me.

So, every now and then when I begin to feel sorry for myself – wishing I could have just one day without pain before I die, I go out onto the web, and I revisit Officer Schechterle’s struggle.  I find after re-reading his struggle, that his courage as well as others who have suffered much more than I, reinforce just how fortunate I am.

We need these heroes in our lives – to ground us and to give us hope and faith and to inspire us to do better and to accept those circumstances that we have been dealt.  I choose to remind myself of Officer Schecterle’s fight, but there are dozens if not hundreds out there who are heroes – we just need to find them.


About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
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  1. Jason and Mike Nolte have appeared together at, at least one speaking engagement. Both of these men have been to hell and are still with us. Their courage is an inspiration to all who hear them speak. Sadly, there will be more Jasons and more Mikes. The focus should be less on… trying to eliminate high speed rear end collisions or trying to make cars that won’t catch on fire when rear ended at 80 mph, which is a good thing… as far as it can go. The focus needs to be on eliminating the hazardously rigid nature of the auto partition designs that rendered both of them unconscious and in need of help exiting burning cars. If conscious, occupants of burning cars flee. One case study after another shows that fire doesn’t prevent escape. Loss of consciousness does. Fire kills those who remain in the car. My mission is to see that loss of consciousness is not so likely in high speed rear end collisions.

  2. Peter says:

    Thank you and God Bless You.

    • Steven Crowell says:

      You are very welcome.

      Peter, do you have a specific interest in the whole subject of taxi and/or cruiser partition hazards? Or is it just this case that prompts your comment? I want to help more.

      • Steven Crowell says:

        I have been lobbying all parties assigned with responsibilities for auto safety about the dangers of using sub-standard, uncertified, non-complying interior partitions for thirty years now. Why do you ask?

  3. Jason is a real TRUE Hero, nothing *everyday* about the Courage it takes to endure, What Jason has accomplished is awesome and his amazing character is reflected in his suppoetive family. I have followed his ‘STORY’ since the beginning and although I will never meet him, he is one I would LOVE to meet. . . face to face, You see “Deternimation, Inborn Character and Intergity” are far more than surface qualities, that which he already had before the accident but came out to help him even more so after the accident. My hat is off to YOU Jason, as John Wayne said “Courage is not the absence of fear, but being afraid and saddling up anyway.” God Bless you and your Family, Barbara

  4. Barbara:

    My post on Jason gets tons of hits. I used “everyday” hero because he is a hero everyday and should be a hero to people everyday – not to mean that he is average.

    I would also like to meet him someday. For me, his courage and determination inspire me to endure my physical problems with grace and acceptance.

  5. sheri avery says:

    i loved this story and , it does remind us of just how lucky we all really are . and when i first discovered jason i was so amazed at him and the strength that he has most would have just given up but , not jason even though he is now walking another path in his life i hate that it cost him what it did . i also love that he has a wonderful awsome wife . that helped him to but i see that there are people he has never even met or know that has fallen so in love with him his story and his family .i to would like to meet him that would be something that i could take thru the rest of my life .only good has and will come to jason and his family . your the best jason . you are a angel in waiting .

  6. suzi havens says:

    Thank you Jason for the taking the time to speak at the Corvel seminar. I was truly noved and facinated at your story of survival and your enthusiasm for lifel. We all have the choice how we percieve and react to lifes challenges.. your gratitude is is a blessing.


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