Minnesota Now with Cathy Wurzer

Thank You, Stranger: In 2020, we all avoided strangers, but some stepped up during a scary circumstance

Sophia Wahlstrom
Sophia Wahlstrom was on a run when she fell and broke her leg. It was the height of the pandemic, she didn’t have her phone on her, and most strangers were wary to interact with others.
Courtesy of Thomas Slipsager

Sophie Wahlstrom was on a run when she fell and broke her leg. It was the height of the pandemic, she didn’t have her phone on her, and most strangers were wary to interact with others. But eventually two strangers stopped to help, and stayed with her for hours.

If this story reminds you of help or even friendship that came from a stranger, we want to hear from you! Call 612-361-1252 and leave a voicemail.

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Audio transcript

CATHY WURZER: Time for another episode of Thank You Stranger, our series where Minnesotans get to tell stories of strangers who brightened their lives. Sophia Wahlstrom told us about how strangers went the extra mile to help even during a scary time.


SOPHIE WAHLSTROM: It was July of 2020, so the pandemic had just begun. And the uprising had just happened. And generally, the vibe was tense around the Cities. In the morning of July 11, I went out for a run south down Mississippi Boulevard.

There's these kind of trails that run alongside the bank. I went down this trail. Among the trail there was sticks and logs, and I was jumping over them and feeling very powerful in my running ability. At one point, I came across this log, and I tripped on this log, and I fell. And when I fell, I heard a crack.

And I thought, oh, god, I really hope that was a stick that I fell on. I tried to get up, and my left leg was just completely non-usable. I just thought, I'm kind of screwed. Because when I went for runs in those days, I didn't have my wallet. I didn't have anything on me.

And there's no one on this trail. So as I was laying there, I just started calling out and I was like, hey, I think I broke my ankle. Can somebody help? I know there's people walking along the sidewalk. I could see them. I could see their shadows as they passed me up on the actual sidewalk of Mississippi Boulevard.

Many people had already passed and heard me call out and not stopped. I think it was just because it was July of 2020, and I think we were all just on alert. Eventually, two men came down the bank. And I could tell that they were wary. There was just this sense of, I don't know, a hesitance about the situation.

And I said, hey, I fell when I was running. And they picked me up. And that's when I realized that something serious had happened to my leg, because I couldn't put any weight on it without extreme pain. But they managed to get me back up to the sidewalk, and then they deposited me on the sidewalk.

And one of the men had to go, so he left. And the other man was there with his wife and their son. And they had been out on a morning walk. They were like, well, let me give you our phone and you can call using one of our phones.

And I tried calling my sister and my dad, and neither of them picked up. At that point, I was still just kind of like, well, thank you so much, goodbye. It's just in a situation like that, I don't want to ask for help, especially considering the circumstances of just the world at the moment.

They said, well, at the very least, we can bring you back to your apartment and see if your roommate's there. You can get your phone. So the man who had originally helped me, he started walking back to their house so he could go get their car. And then his wife and their son stayed with me.

And I was leaning up against this bridge trying not to cry. So they stayed with me, and we were waiting for this woman's husband to go get their car. And while we were sitting there, a probably eight-year-old boy ran to me from across the street-- and he ran up and he was like, oh, what happened?

And I said, oh, well, I fell. I might have broken my ankle. And he said, oh, do you need crutches? Do you need a boot? And I was like, I guess. I guess that would be great. And he said, well, we have one.

We have a boot, and we have crutches in our house. And so he ran back to the house, and he came back with crutches and a boot. And then while we were sitting there waiting, he continued to ferry things back and forth to me. I think he lived with his grandmother.

She was sending him out with a bag of grapes and a bottle of water. And people just kept stopping and offering to help. I was actually feeling just so warm, despite the fact that I had a broken leg and was just sitting there. Eventually, the man came back around with the car.

They offered to drive me all the way out to Eagan and bring me to the orthopedics place. And then they stopped at the Caribou Coffee on Grand and Snelling and got me a coffee. And then they drove me all the way out to Eagan.

I found out while I was there that I had broken my leg. I ended up having to get surgery. I was on bed rest for like a month. And I never found out who these people were.

They just took two hours out of their morning and just took care of someone that they had never known-- was just this incredibly scary time. It was really hard to be around people, much less strangers. I've always just wanted to thank them. It was so immensely helpful, and I have no idea what I would have done.

That was a moment that really made me feel a lot of hope about people and a lot of hope about humanity. And that, even though it was only a few hours, just a little a little glint of hope.

CATHY WURZER: That was produced by our own Ellen Finn for our series called Thank you Stranger. If you want to share a story of kindness from a stranger or even a friend for this series, we want to hear it, of course. Call us at 612-361-1252, or email us at minnesotanow@mpr.org.

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