Mike Wilson is 6’4” and brawny, a retired police captain who served Apex for 25 years. Brandon Markman has an average 5’9” build and works in sales for a local gaming company.
The two don’t have much in common, but they were brought together Jan. 24, when they leapt out of their cars to help a woman who had driven her car off a bridge on Apex Barbecue Road into a cold and swollen creek.
They were brought together again on Tuesday, when the Apex Town Council honored them for their bravery and Good Samaritan acts.
Wilson was emotional throughout the night, wiping away tears. He brought up Police Officer Daniel Fleming, who responded to the scene and treated him for early stage hypothermia, to be included in the pictures and ceremony.
“He took care of me,” Wilson explained to the Town Council hall, crowded with fellow first-responders and a Boy Scout troop. He kissed Fleming on the side of the head and went to rejoin his family in the audience.
After the presentation, Wilson couldn’t find the words to describe how it felt to come down with hypothermia. He also injured his leg during the rescue.
But he didn’t want to talk about that part of the rescue anyway.
“With all the bad news on TV, officers getting shot, we needed this,” Wilson told Apex Police Chief John Lettney.
“This is what we do every day,” Lettney responded.
That’s not part of Markman’s everyday routine, though.
He said he had never been in a rescue situation before, let alone one that involved a woman and a potentially dangerous body of water. He said he doesn’t know what he would have done if Wilson hadn’t already been on the scene.
“He had identified himself as a captain, so I knew he’d be in charge,” Markman said.
If that didn’t tip him off, the sight of the retired Wilson – who now works as an elementary school SRO in Apex – submerging himself in the chilly water to try to help the driver, Shannon Clayborne, certainly showed Wilson’s dedication in the moment.
“He was a man on a mission, for sure,” Markman said.
Markman stood on the bank and, after the water proved too deep for Wilson to carry Clayborne back, caught her when Wilson threw her to shore.
Town officials have said several drivers sped past the scene without stopping, so Markman pulling over was key to the rescue. But Markman said he was just doing the right thing.
“I’m glad that my son gets to hear about it and stuff,” he said. “He’s 7, so it’s good for him to see that good deeds do matter.”
Markman and Wilson received special awards for the rescue, but the episode led Apex council member Nicole Dozier to propose creating an annual award to spotlight individuals, businesses or non-profits in town for good deeds.
For example, she said, no one at the scene of the rescue got Markman’s name before he left. The town only found him because Markman and his wife, Kristie, live in the Bella Casa neighborhood, where Dozier lives. Dozier saw a Facebook post from Markman’s wife about the rescue.
That was a stroke of luck, she said, and letting residents nominate people or groups for awards could make sure other good deeds don’t fly under the radar.
“I think it’s a good idea, especially for the kind of unsung heroes,” Mayor Pro Tem Gene Schulze said. “There’s a lot of people who work behind the scenes and don’t get the recognition.”
The council unanimously passed the motion to create an award, but details are still forthcoming. Dozier said she will work on making a nomination form to bring back to the town council soon.