Anyone, 5 years of age and older, is eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Find your nearest vaccination location at vaccines.gov.

Back to Blog

IDOT construction technician’s quick thinking saves a distressed traveler

Construction Technician Steven Miller has been with the Illinois Department of Transportation since 2017.

One day will forever stick in his memory: May 23, 2022.

That afternoon, a chance encounter with a distressed man on an interstate overpass in Massac County forced Miller, who works in IDOT’s Vienna yard in southern Illinois, to make a snap decision. Save the life of the man and put his own life at risk? Or not get involved and hope for the best?

The entire incident was captured by the Massac County Sheriff’s Department and received national attention.

Here, in his own words, Miller looks back on a fateful day, the decision he made and how it affected him.

Contractor foreman Ricky Eddington and I were working on a bridge repaving project on Interstate 24 just north of Metropolis. Ricky noticed someone walking towards us. The guy said that he was very dehydrated and in need of assistance. I gave him some water, and he took a drink and poured the rest over his head. Ricky told the guy to call 911. I told Ricky that I would stick around while he got back to work.

The guy gave me his phone and I saw that he had dialed 911. I spoke with Massac County Deputy Summer Dixon, who arrived on the scene.

She noticed that the guy had a pocketknife. He handed it to her. The guy lives out of state. He was trying to figure out how to get home to his wife.

I stood on one side of him. The deputy stood on the other. All of a sudden, the guy dropped his phone and leaned back over the overpass. We caught his leg. His other leg was kicking off from the bridge underside. It felt like five minutes, but it was probably 30 seconds. In a moment of clarity, the guy reached his hand out, we grabbed it and pulled him back over. I think I bear-hugged him.

The deputy placed him in handcuffs. An EMT came on the scene. We called the guy’s wife back and gave her an update about him going to the hospital in Kentucky.

I have been in highway construction since 2009. I have seen so many fatalities, however, I have never experienced anything like this before.

For a brief moment, I felt like we were going over, too, but we hit the guardrail. It felt like it was never going to end and there was no way out of it. My ribs were so sore the next day, but I would do it again.

My sons think I am a hero. Some people have said that I am a hero. I would hope that there comes a time that this is not the greatest thing in the news. I have always said that you should be outwardly focused. We should ask people, ‘How can I help you?’ instead of, ‘You need to do something.’ We need to relate to others. People do not have to go through life alone.

I told the guy that he was in a bad spot right now, but we all have been there, and life will get better. You cannot miss out on the fun that you are about to have in life.

I have seen people on the interstate before, a clear sign that something is not right. I see public safety as the most important day-to-day responsibility of my position.

The good part of our jobs is that we are in the position to make our roads and bridges safe for the general public. The downside is that it is not always perceived that way.

I want people to know that this guy was in a very dark spot. The term “mental illness” is tossed around so much, but we do not want to gloss over it, either. It would be nice to live in a society where acts of kindness for people is expected. I try to garden and help friends in the community if they need things. I want my kids to help others, too. We have tried it the other way. Let’s all do something different!

Miller was awarded the Secretary’s Pin by Secretary Omer Osman in recognition of his bravery and going above and beyond his duty.