Drive south out of Springfield, IL on State Road 4 and every few miles you'll pass through a small farm town surrounded by cornfields. One of the first is Auburn, pop. 4,500, which became famous because historic Route 66 paved in red brick zoomed through it from 1926 until it was rerouted in 1930. Today Auburn has a family restaurant and a Save-A-Lot grocery. Amtrak trains don't stop anymore as they rush from St. Louis to Chicago, so locals pay attention when crossing tracks. Take Earl Moorman, for example. He's 75 and can't drive a car, so he gets around in a motorized wheelchair. He was paying attention last Tuesday when crossing the tracks, but his wheels got stuck and the scooter wouldn't move. He yelled for help, since a train was coming.
Petite 19- year-old Ashley Aldridge lives near the Washington Street crossing. She was in her kitchen preparing lunch for her children, ages 1 and 2, when she saw Moorman from her window and heard him yell. She asked a neighbor to watch her kids, and that's when she heard the crossing arms go down. She didn't think. She just ran to help. That's what Moms do. Moorman's wheels were stuck, so even though he weighs about 200 pounds, she pulled him out of the chair and got him clear of the tracks just before the train hit his chair, causing it to explode. "There were pieces of his wheelchair clear on the other side of Auburn," she said afterward. "If she wasn't there with the window open, my father-in-law wouldn't be here," said Moorman's son-in-law, Dave Beck. "He's our family. If we lost him, we'd lose everything." Moorman called Ashley his guardian angel. Look in the mirror. You might be one too.