Austin Matula knew he was supposed to be on time to graduation – his principal stressed it repeatedly. But unfortunately, vehicles don’t always get the memo.
While Matula was on his way to his Crestwood High School graduation in Sumter, South Carolina, he noticed that his car was low on antifreeze. Thinking like a responsible, mechanically-inclined driver, he stopped to check the antifreeze level.
“I went back to check it, and when I went to go twist the top, it blew up in my face,” Matula told The Washington Post on Sunday. “It burned my face a little, burned my hands and arms.”
Just as important, it ruined his white shirt, which he was mandated to wear to his graduation, as all his fellow graduates were doing. The antifreeze coated it.
After a friend called 911, an ambulance arrived and while paramedics helped rinse his face and mouth, he watched as his fellow classmates were lining up for graduation. His principal had made clear that if he lost his place in line, then he might be removed from the ceremony altogether.
But Matula found two friends that day, who would change his young life forever. Deputies Isaac McLeod and Fred Brantley found Matula and proceeded to procure him a white shirt.
“I think Brantley stayed the whole time, and he helped me out while the other officer went and got the shirt,” Matula said.
It made an indelible impression on Matula. He was able to make it to his graduation: “The rest of the ceremony went fine. I had a rag on my hand when I went to go get my diploma.”
Austin’s mother, Debbie Matula said afterwards, “I was very appreciative of the fact that someone stepped in to take care of him,” she said. “It was very touching. It meant the world to us knowing there are kind hearts out there.”
Find time to thank a police officer when you see him or her. Be sure to read about the British actor who passed away recently after a life of extreme controversy.