On a hot Independence Day in 2018, BP employee Anthony Marks was hard at work in his new job at a gas station. But when he looked towards the forecourt outside, he spotted a woman in serious trouble. Shocked, the worker then saw her mouth the words “help me,” and he immediately jumped into action.
It was July 4, 2018, and Marks was serving customers at a gas station in Steubenville, Ohio. Yet while he had only been in the job for a month, Marks nevertheless had all the qualities required for a situation that arose while he was on duty.
It started, in part, because the summer of 2018 had been one of the hottest in U.S. history. By early July, for instance, Ohio was in the grips of its second heatwave of the year. Temperatures had even been in excess of 90 °F for more than three days running, and the July average of 83 °F was well above normal for Steubenville.
The heat was so oppressive, in fact, that local Crystal Ault hadn’t left her house for several days. But whether out of necessity or temperatures abating slightly, she decided to venture out on July 4. Ault had only traveled for about a block, though, when she fell victim to health complications.
Fortunately, the gas station in which Marks worked was nearby, and Ault drove into the forecourt. As she reached the service window, however, something looked very wrong with the young woman. As Marks explained to Local 12 in July 2018, “[Ault] pulled up when I was working at the window. She looked distressed.”
Yet Marks suspected that he knew what was afflicting Ault, and he soon had his fears confirmed. “I ran out there and put her car in park and brought her inside,” Marks recalled. It seemed to him as though Ault was having difficulty breathing, so he did what he could to assist her.
As Marks explained to Local 12, “What I thought was going on was that [Ault] couldn’t breathe. And when I got out there, I was right.” And the young attendant’s instincts kicked in even further: as well as helping Ault inside, he also gave her water.
Ault herself was barely able to communicate. Clearly struggling, in fact, she could scarcely get the message across that she needed help. It was only Marks’ quick reactions that evidently saved Ault from a situation that could have had very dire consequences.
Ault said, “I just mouthed the words ‘help me,’ and he saw me, and he literally went around the counter and ran out to me just like that.” You see, Ault was having a medical emergency that she hadn’t been prepared for. The main symptom was heatstroke caused by the extreme weather that Ohio was experiencing.
Ault, though, has a condition called emphysema, a degenerative affliction of the lungs. One of the disease’s symptoms is breathing difficulties, which occur when the lung’s air sacs become too full. And while smoking is among the foremost causes of emphysema, enzyme deficiencies and pollution can also lead to the illness.
To treat her condition, Ault usually carries an inhaler with her. On this occasion, though, she had left it in the house. But the extreme heat that day had triggered an attack. And because Ault hadn’t had her inhaler to hand, the lack of oxygen to her lungs had almost made her lose consciousness.
Of course, emphysema-related breathing difficulties can be very serious, especially if shortness of breath occurs suddenly, as in Ault’s case. The best advice is to seek medical assistance from a nearby hospital’s emergency department. On this occasion, though, Marks knew that time was of the essence.
After assisting Ault into the gas station, then, Marks had soon figured out what was happening. And so the attendant quickly jumped into action again. Realizing that the woman in distress needed an inhaler, and having one of his own, he dashed home to grab it for her.
As Ault explained, “I had just run out of my inhaler. He left and went home and gave me his inhaler. He’s like a guardian angel. He was there at the right time.” It was this quick reaction, after all, that could have saved her life.
A grateful Ault even said it was her guardian angel’s astuteness to what was happening that rescued her. She also believes it was the heat from the latest heatwave that had led to her struggling to breathe.
They say that not all heroes wear capes, and Ault certainly believes the gas station attendant had played that role for her on July 4. Marks played down his achievement, though. “I just figured it was the right thing to do. If it was one of my family members, I would want someone to do that for me, you know?” he told Local 12.
Wherever the store clerk falls on the dutiful-citizen-to-hero scale, though, we can be sure of one thing: when it came to the crunch, he went beyond the call of duty. But the story continues, as even after having saved Ault’s life, Marks had yet another surprise.
“[Marks] was wonderful. He even bought me some pop,” Ault further recalled. But Marks went even further than that. She continued, “Then he said, ‘I’m going to drive you home.’ I said, ‘How?’ He said, ‘Well, I’ll drive your car up there, and I’ll walk back.’ I was so touched. So touched.”
And although the gas station attendant’s actions weren’t a big deal to him, they’re probably not something that everyone would think of. So why did he go the extra mile? As Marks explained, “I just appreciate [Ault], that’s all. She’s a good woman, and she seems like she has a nice heart.”
Marks’ kindness wasn’t lost on Ault, either. In fact, she even had some career advice for him. “Not all people can do what he did. I think it’s a gift. He’s special,” she said. “I think he could be a paramedic, a policeman or something. He has such a heart, such a good American over there. He really is.”