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Scrapbook of the article about Aaron and Damion

Teenagers helped comfort children at scene of Nov. 12

accident; teen crawled under truck and talked to

trapped girl

Published: Sunday, November 21, 2010, 11:05 PM Updated: Monday, November 22, 2010, 10:52 AM


Aaron Covel and Damion Hopkins, both 14, witnessed the crash involving Savannah and Travis Rupert on Nov. 12 at the intersection of Cooper Ave. and E. Michigan Ave. The best friends were the first to call 911 and also comforted Savannah and others at the scene.

Jackson Citizen Patriot

They said instincts took over.

Moments after a pickup truck hit Savannah and Travis Rupert on Nov.

12, Damion Hopkins called 911 and hugged the other children who

saw the crash.

Aaron Covel crawled under the truck and talked to the trapped 10-

year-old Savannah.

“Sweetie, we’re going to get you out of here, don’t move. It’s going to

be OK. We’re going to get you out,” he told her as she wheezed for air.

“I don’t really know if she was conscious or not, but if she was, I was

hoping that I helped her out, that I gave her the will to hold on and

not just give up on life.”

More than a week later, Savannah remains in critical condition at C.S.

Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, a hospital spokeswoman said

Sunday. Cindy Piersall, Savannah and Travis’ mother, knows her

daughter has a long and hard recovery ahead of her. It could be

months before she leaves the hospital.

Travis, 4, died at the scene. His funeral was Thursday.

Jackson Police Deputy Chief John Holda said the final report on the

crash had not yet been completed. The police department was waiting

on final crash diagrams from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office’s

accident reconstruction team. Holda thought the report would be

finished and sent to the county prosecutor for review early this week.

“None of the evidence points to anything out of the ordinary,” Holda

said. “It was a tragic accident.”

Throughout the week, a memorial grew around a pole at the

intersection’s southeast corner. Stuffed animals — bears and bunnies

— and flowers sit on the ground. A green sign is taped to the pole,

signed by friends and family.

“In loving memory of Travis,” it reads. “We love you. Savannah hope

you get well soon.”

Aaron and Damion, both 14-year-old ninth-graders at Vandercook

Lake High School and best friends, were walking home from Virginia

Coney Island the evening of Nov. 12. They are glad they were


“I would not have known what to do that night,” Aaron said.

“(Damion) was calming me down.”

“We both pushed each other to act,” Damion added.

The two do not know how the crash happened. They were walking

about 20 feet in front of the group of children and the adult on

Michigan Avenue. Aaron and Damion crossed Cooper Street when the

road was clear. They heard a scream, turned around and saw

Savannah’s bike dragging underneath the truck.

Damion said when they crossed Cooper Street, they were confused

about the signals.

“They need to put something in there, like a different light,” Aaron

said. “They need to put a crossing light in there or something.”

City Manager Warren Renando said he knew of no plans by the city to

change the signals at the intersection. He called it an “odd”

intersection with two busy, four-lane streets and railroad tracks.

Aaron and Damion do not have formal first aid training, but both knew

what to do and what not to do. They knew enough not to try and move

Savannah. Damion said if Savannah had a spinal cord injury or

internal bleeding, moving her could have made it worse.

Aaron’s father used to be an emergency medical technician. Damion’s

mother works in health care. Both have been in traumatic situations

before. After the first day of school this fall, Damion was with a friend

who stabbed himself in the neck with a knife. Aaron was playing

paintball once when a smoke grenade exploded and shards of PVC pipe

cut players.

“We both know a lot of the basics — what not to do in situations like

that,” Aaron said. “It’s mostly common sense stuff.”

“But a lot of people, they can’t think straight in situations like that,”

Damion added.

Aaron and Damion did not know who they were helping that night.

Savannah’s face was covered by her hair, Aaron said. It was not until

school photos of Savannah and Travis ran in the newspaper days later

that Aaron and Damion realized they knew the family through school.

They remembered seeing the children playing on the playground at

Townsend Elementary.

Both Aaron and Damion have gone to see the counselor at Vandercook

Lake High School. They talk about the crash, too. Both help, they said.

“It gives you a perspective on life, like how fragile it really is,” Damion

said. “It can just be gone like that.”

Aaron said he thought twice about getting his driver’s license. For a

few days after the crash, he had disturbing dreams and would wake up

thinking it should have been him killed that day.

“I had really bad survivor’s guilt,” Aaron said. “He was only 4, and he

didn’t really get to see his life. It just made me mad that someone that

young had to die.”

The two are proud of themselves, though. They are proud they were

able to act when everyone else was in shock. They have been called


“We’re not really heroes,” Damion said. “We just did the right thing.”

Aaron said firefighters, police officers and EMTs are the real heroes.

Everyday they save and help people. He and his friend just did it once.

The two 14-year-old boys might not look like heroes. When they sat

down Wednesday night to talk about the accident, knit winter hats

covered their heads. Aaron painted his fingernails black. He wore red

jeans and a faded, black Red Hot Chili Peppers T-shirt. Damion had on

camouflaged pants and a black T-shirt with a shot-up deer crossing

sign printed on it. Below the bullet-hole-ridden sign it read “Sorry it’s

instinct” in all capital letters.

Both play paintball and are interested in the military — like tactical

stuff, they said. Both plan to join after high school — Damion the

Marines, Aaron the Army or Navy, anything to get him into special

forces. The pair, who were playing hackie sack in front of the First

Baptist Church in downtown Jackson on Wednesday night, often are

stereotyped as misfits.

“They look at us — how we dress and that we are paintballers — and

are like, ‘Yeah, you probably aren’t good people,’ ” Damion said.

They are.

Damion and Aaron wanted to go to Travis’ funeral Thursday but could

not miss school. They plan to attend the spaghetti dinner and silent

auction fundraiser for the family Dec. 10 at Townsend Elementary.

They are worried about the family’s financial concerns and want to

keep helping.

It is instinct.

2010 All rights reserved.

Editor’s note: The below comments have been edited for grammar, spelling, content, and stupidity . . .

"You have a boy there to be very proud of." Debbie Bottoms (Grandma and Grandpa’s

neighbor) from Facebook

"Nice article, I'm proud to know Aaron and Damion... Good looking out Guys." Tinman

from Delta Ops forum

"That’s incredible. It really is amazing to see people act so calmly and clearly in such

tragic situations.

Even if people say they are misfits, it looks like they had their heads screwed on right and

the military will be a good fit for them.

Congratulations to those boys, they are heroes even if they don't think so their actions

have proved it." Stilgar from MCB forum

"I have a 14 year old daughter and I can't imagine her handling a situation such as this.

Good job you guys. I'm so proud of you! No survivors’ guilt Aaron, you guys did just

what you were supposed to do. Savannah was very lucky you were there with her. I am

positive that God put you there to comfort her. This is something you will remember the

rest of your lives and I am sure both of you have a very bright future of military service

ahead of you. Thank you for remaining calm and handling all the unusual circumstances

with grace and bravery. Blessings" ddrake from Mlive

"Wow Donna! What an amazing boy you have there. I'm convinced God put him there

for a reason, because even as an adult, and as a nurse, I don't think I could've done what

he did. You and Matt must be very proud!" Jamie Peterson Spencer (a friend of your

parents from high school) from Facebook

"I'm not sure that ANY professionally trained adult in the emercency medical field could

have done a finer job than you two did. If you young men really do want to enter the

armed forces . . . . . I'm sure you both will be outstanding representatives of this country.

You guys were able to keep level heads in a horrible situation . . . . . it's not "just

anybody" that can do that. It's great to see some REAL young heros . . . . . . we need more

like you. Go "be what you were meant to be"." jeffinatl from Mlive

"’Doing the right thing’ is EXACTLY what makes you boys heroes. Thank you!"

Amanda_Chesney_190 from Mlive

"Sounds like you guys did a real stand up job and should be proud of yourselves." Johnny

Law from Delta Ops Forum

"Kudos to them for helping and knowing what they could do and should not do. Sad to

hear about the boy, that's got to be hard." desertT1 from MCB forum

“See what happens when teenagers have TRUE role models... their parents!! Very proud

Matt and Donna!” - Brian Sine (a friend of your parents from high school) from


"Heartwarming story in a time of tragedy. Kudos to your boy." Ryantuomi from MCB


"Nice job you guys, nice job indeed. I'm glad i know you." Tyler from Delta Ops Forum

"Way to go guys." motownsound from Mlive

"Aaron and Damion, GREAT JOB!! It is nice to know that not everyone has that "Not

my problem, keep going attitude." So many people, young and old, now days have that

attitude that if it doesn’t involve me, why should I care. I can only imagine how hard all

this must be for the 2 of you to deal with. Just know that what you did that day brought

some comfort to a little girl, and to her family, to know that someone cared enough to

crawl under that truck and talk with her until help arrived. You boys are truly a God

send." mx5gx11 from Mlive

"Wow, what a great must be so proud of Aaron! I love how they make a

point to talk about the stereotyping too. He didn't think twice...he just did the right thing.

You and Donna are doing a great job." Carolyn Newhard Gase from Facebook

"Dude, your son is a badass, and a hero! More so then some of the others "hero's" you

read about. Putting himself in possible danger to comfort a young girl, giving her hope.

Your son is a brave young man, and you must be a proud father.

....He could use a hair cut, though." Disco from MCB forum

"Matt,Donna . You have raised a blessing. Aaron is a great young man. I am so glad to

know him. The Clark’s." Terri Clark from Facebook

"I would have to say... they are some of Jackson's finest! Children that any parent could

be proud of. haneyjane_72 from Mlive

"Feel good story of the month here fellas" Falcon16 from MCB forum

"Way to Go GUYS!!!! If I could say anything to these young fellas it would have too be

Thank You and remember, it's not how you dress or what you look like, it's your actions

when called to do what you can in every situation. These are Life’s lessons that all of us

need to abide by and I for 1 am PROUD to see that All is NOT Lost with our young up

and coming Adults." Savage776949203 from Mlive

"You give me hope for the future. CHEERS!" Brewtt from MCB forum

"You never really know what a person is capable of (good or bad) until pushed into

action. I can only hope that if I ever have kids they would rise to the occasion like your

son and his friend did." ITSPB-Rogue from MCB forum

"You should be very proud!" idkfa from MCB forum

"Boys, be proud. The measure of a man is how he really reacts to the world around him

and you did just the right things. A clear indication of how you value life and people and

I would be very proud to see that kind of compassion in my kids when they reach your

age. And I like your idea of a more clear crossing signal there - take that and campaign

for it - go to City Council if it's something you believe in - get supporters and don't give

up - you made a difference in that girl's life and I have a feeling you will continue to do

the same in the future. Great leaders. Keep up the good work!" d.lee from Mlive

". . . Aaron and his friend did an awesome thing and that is all that counts." Caron Mroz

(a former boss of your parents) from Facebook

"Outstanding display of character by both of you young men. I'm honored to know you

both." Pappy from Delta Ops forum

"I agree, good job gentlemen on keeping focused and keeping your cool.

That was a very thoughtful and brave thing that you did in a stressful situation.

Deacon you have done a great job and you can be my Dad anytime :^)

My prayers go out to the little girl and her family." Max Magnum (Dave Massey) from

HSI forum

"Good job guys doing what you were able to do to help. Every middle aged person who

thinks the world is going to hell because of our kids needs to read this story and

remember what our parents thought about us." ronaldduck from Mlive

"Those boys and parents have every right to be proud. Who knows if that helped her

survive. God put them their for a reason. I think it was great what they did!" Billie Jo

Johnson from Facebook

"What an inspirational and touching story. A little bit of good news is exactly what this

world needs! Kudos to you both!" cherry-red from Mlive

"Good boys. I know there are many who would have done nothing. I can only hope my

little ones turn out as kind." Deuce from MCB forum

"You should both be very proud of your son! What an awesome young man." Rebecca

Stuck Hollen (a friend of your parents from college) from Facebook

"Way to go guys..... Your right most adults wouldn’t have been able to keep emotions

under control.. " momof2 from Mlive

"That is awesome; you and Matt are raising a fine young man." Leslie Fischer Downs (a

friend of your parents from high school) from Facebook

"Great job boys, your parents should be proud, you have all done a great job. Be safe

serving our country. Thank you......." L from Mlive

"What an awesome thing he did in such a stressful situation." Aunt Becky from


"Good write up on them, you should be very proud!" berzerker grizz from MCB forum

"Congratulations to these two fine young men, you should be very proud of yourselves!

In a day and age where many people would not get involved, this story is a refreshing

reminder there still is caring, concerned people out there! Way to go!" bmoviebabe from


"Both families should be proud of their boys. They both did the best they could. Sounds

like the boys know what they want to do with their lives." Great Aunt Karen from


"In a world where virtually everything is wrong, you - Aaron and Damion - are what are

right! Thank you for your concern and caring of another. It is young adults like you that

make the world a brighter place. You may not feel like you have done anything heroic,

but let me assure you that you have! You truly are heroes in every sense of the word and I

thank you again. May God continue to bless you two and bring you peace. Good luck in

your future endeavors." mykidsROCK! from Mlive

"Way to go Aaron! What a courageous thing you and your friend did. You should be very

proud of yourselves. Matt and Donna you should be very proud of your son. Quite an

example to set for young people." Wendy Bird from Facebook

"Definitely two of Jackson's finest there! I'm so sorry you had to be a part of this terrible

tragedy. Continued good thoughts and prayers for all involved." auntagonist from


"The world would be a better place if only inhabited by members of Delta Ops.... but

seriously I’m proud to know these two and glad they were able to act in a situation in

which many people would freeze up." Robby Cooley (a.k.a. Johnny Law) from


"You boys are heroes. I am so glad there are kids out there who will step up to help. You

should be very proud of yourselves. Continuing prayers to the families, including these

fine boys. May God bless you all!" phelvil539 from Mlive

"Just read the complete article. Good that Aaron and Damion took action to help others.

They set a positive example for others." Angela Gautsche from Facebook

"Good on them!" usagi_tetsu from MCB forum

"Funny, they look just like heros to me. You guys rock." dropsofrain from Mlive

"Good job Aaron and Damion! God put you there for a reason and gave you the peace of

mind and strength you needed to act. May you continue to find that same strength and

peace in your future endeavors. The world needs more young people like you! Oh and as

far as the way you dress, who cares, you guys rock to me! :-)" pheobe27 from Mlive

"Glad to hear about this. it was a great thing you guys did." Minion from Delta Ops


"Shake his hand for me. Excellent work!" Luke from MCB forum

"Awesome job young men....they look like normal 14 year old boys to me..." v420 from


"Guys, you were there for a reason. Good job Aaron and Damion, your families must be

very proud. Thank you." jxnative from Mlive

"Too often we focus on the bad kids sometimes do, but these decent, kind and heroic

young people are the real future of this great country. Just a couple of good American

young people taking care of business. God bless 'em, and great work guys." Paix from


"KUDOS Aaron and Damion!!!! Good luck in your life!!" cjchatman from Mlive

"I looked up the word Hero in the dictionary. Weird, there was no picture. I guess that

means heros come in all shapes and sizes. If I was under a car w/o any family around, I

would be so happy to have anyone to be there with me.

Great job boys!!!!" missmiss3 from Mlive

"Awesome kids!! Be proud! You did great!! Stay cool cause that's what you two really

are. Way cool heroes! 8-)" Muffy57 from Mlive

"GOOD JOB BOYS !!!!!!!!!" ackley24 from Mlive

"These young men I believe were put in this position for a reason only known at that

moment to God but now know by all of us! I am a grown man and I cried reading this

story and I myself am guilty of judging a book by its cover. I wish to send a special

THANK YOU to both Aaron Covel and Damion Hopkins for going above and beyond in

their efforts to help another. I believe they both should be in the running for Citizens of

the Year! My prayers go out to the Rupert family!" redbud420 from Mlive

"Delta ops FTW, on and off the field." 1996XJ from MCB forum