Imagine being stuck in traffic on the highway for more than 24 hours in below-freezing temperatures. Well, that nightmare was a reality for hundreds of people this week who were stranded in their cars on I-95 in Virginia due to a lengthy traffic jam caused by an icy snowstorm. With the conditions making it difficult for rescue crews to help, many were trapped overnight with no access to food or other necessities as their normal commutes became extended by hours with no end in sight. But one stranded driver found a bright spot amidst the despair.
As she was sitting in her car fearing the worst, Casey Holihan and her husband, John Noe, spotted a bread truck from Schmidt Baking Company boxed in just ahead of them in the jam. “We were starving,” says Holihan. “People around us were very much struggling as well. We could hear kids crying.” Willing to try just about anything, they called the local Baltimore bakery’s customer service number listed on the back of the truck and left a message begging for the driver to open the back and pass out bread to the hungry passengers around them.
It was a last-ditch effort, and the couple wasn’t very optimistic about their odds of getting a response. But to their surprise, they received a personal phone call from the company’s owner, Chuck Paterakis, not 20 minutes later with the news that he was instructing the truck’s driver to open up and distribute loaves of bread from his cargo. Overjoyed by the news, Holihan and Noe teamed up with the truck’s driver, Ron Hill, to bring much-needed sustenance to the cars around them.
“We just kept giving it out until we couldn't walk anymore because it was so freezing,” Holihan explains. “It felt incredible just hearing people say thank you and hearing people just so relieved to finally have food in their car, food in their system and in their kids' system. It was a really incredible feeling.”
After walking carefully along the icy roads for almost an hour, they had reached more than 50 cars and handed out around 300 loaves of bread to hungry passengers. The simple loaves of bread were surely a ray of hope in an impossibly distressing situation. Holihan herself calls it “one of the kindest moments” she’s ever witnessed. But for Paterakis, he was just happy to be in a position to help. “It was an easy decision,” the Schmidt company owner says, admitting that if the roles were reversed, “I would want someone to offer their products.”
“This company is incredible,” Holihan says. “This bread truck was on the way to being delivered. The company definitely could have made a profit off the bread but instead chose to help the people around them. That is just so incredible that someone chose humanity over profit, especially in a situation that people were so desperate.”