Sometimes life just puts us in the right place in the right time, and the smallest decisions we make, even the simple everyday ones, can change our lives completely.
That was the case for William Gressen, a firefighter from Landover Hills, Maryland. One morning, he made a mistake we’ve all made at some point: he made a wrong turn on the way to work.
The goof forced him to take an alternate route, continuing along the Crain Highway.
Little did he know what he would find along the way.
As he was driving, Gressen spotted something unusual: a beam of light emitting from the woods along the highway. He assumed it was from a construction site and kept driving.
But for some reason, it still struck him as odd, and he thought more and more about it as he drove—ultimately, he decided to turn around and investigate.
“I don’t know what made me go that way,” he told the Washington Post.
He pulled his car over and trekked down a deep ravine into the woods—125 feet down. There, he was shocked to discover the source of the light.
It was an overturned car.
“When I first looked, I couldn’t see the vehicle at first,” Gressen told the Washington Post. “I went down in the meantime just far enough for me to see, and I could see the silhouette of the vehicle.”
The gold Hyundai Elantra had apparently run off the road and rolled down the embankment. Gressen investigated the vehicle and saw a young woman in the driver’s seat, unconscious.
She was in frightening condition. She was reportedly wrapped in the seatbelt with her feet up on the dashboard, and her “head hyperextended all the way to the back,” as Gessen recalled.
Gressen could see that she wasn’t breathing. He quickly went in and untangled her from the seatbelt, and miraculously, the young woman began breathing again.
She likely would have choked to death had Gressen not been there.
The firefighter immediately called 911, and the woman was flown to the hospital, where she made a full recovery.
The young woman was 22-year-old Briana Morrissette, a domestic violence coordinator. When she woke up in the hospital, she was shaken at first—she didn’t remember anything about the accident.
But when she was told what had happen, she was thankful to be alive.
“I didn’t have any major injuries, no brain trauma, no anything,” Morrissette told WTOP.
She was also incredibly grateful towards Gressen’s life-saving actions.
“I was unconscious during the entire accident,” she told the Washington Post. “I only know from stories what has happened.”
“I never had the opportunity to see his face, to touch his hand, to give him a hug, to thank him.”
Luckily, after she got out of the hospital, Morrissette got her wish: she was reunited with the firefighter who saved her life—and got to thank him in person.
“I’m eternally grateful for what you’ve done,” Morrissette told Gressen. “It was very courageous of you.”
“Every day, I aspire to be that way myself.”
“There was a guardian angel,” Morrisettte’s mother, Aundrea Wheeler Morrissette said, according to WTOP.
She believed it was fate that brought them together, and the coincidences didn’t stop there.
“They share the same birthday,” she said. “I know that God was in the midst of all this.”
The mother also said it was “almost like Briana has a new birthday,” referring to her unlikely survival, according to the Washington Post.
Gressen remained humble and thankful as the family thanked him for his heroics. But he too was struck by the unlikely twist of fate that led him down that road that day.
“I just happened to make a wrong turn.”