Last week, I lost a friend and former colleague. And if he hadn't shown up on the planet, I would have died thirty years ago.
You might have, too.
You've probably never heard of him, but he lived an amazing life that made a huge difference to a lot of people - not just me. His name is Clarence Ditlow, and in 1970, he went to work for Ralph Nader as one of two guys who specialized in auto safety. He went on to led the Center for Auto Safety until he died last Thursday, way too young.
Clarence worked with another great guy, Carl Nash, to make cars safer. And because of the work they did, I survived a nasty auto accident.
They worked on two safety standards that made my accident survivable, headrests and shoulder belts.
And when I ran a red light (there was a monster truck blocking my view of the light) in a Honda Civic hatchback and rammed a Jeep Cherokee,
I wound up in the emergency room at Bethesda's Suburban Hospital. And the ER doctor pointed out that my dress was ripped where my seat belt had kept me in place.
The doctor said that without my shoulder belt and properly adjusted headrest I would have been an organ donor.
Clarence and Carl were the ones who petitioned the government for shoulder belts and headrests - safety upgrades in the car I was driving.
Last week, when I heard that Clarence had died, I thought about the difference he made, not just in my life, but in the lives of hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of people all over the world.
How many people didn't die when they were involved in auto accidents? How many, like me, were able to walk away without serious injuries?
And I started to think about what I could be doing to make the world a better place. Um, the answer wasn't writing a better blog.
And I have to thank Clarance for making me have this conversation with myself - and for keeping me alive long enough to write this blog post!
Here is an article about some of Clarence Ditlow's achievements that appeared last week in the New York Times.