He Played a Superhero—but a Daring Rescue Made Him a Real-Life Hero

Updated: Apr. 04, 2023

It's a bird ... it's a plane ... it's Captain Harrisburg, saving the day thanks to his quick thinking and selfless actions!

Timothy White Jr. in a Captain America costume standing in front of a Penbrook, PA muralJustin Tsucalas for Reader's Digest
Timothy White Jr. in superhero mode

If Timothy White Jr. were Captain America, perhaps one fling of the superhero’s trademark shield could have saved the day. But this was real life. And though White has dressed up as Captain America for conventions, parades and the local Anti-Bullying Superhero Day, when he spotted trouble on this September afternoon he wasn’t wearing his costume and couldn’t fall back on any superpowers.

It was rush hour in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. White, 38, was driving home from the nonprofit he and his mother run, called AMiracle4Sure, which helps formerly incarcerated individuals reenter society. He noticed a gray Nissan four-door pickup on the opposite side of the two-lane street. It was hard to miss, since it was swerving and careening into the curb before course-­correcting, only to careen into the curb again.

As the pickup drew closer, White got a good look at the problem: The driver appeared to be asleep. Pretty soon, this guy’s going to crash into a house and kill himself or somebody else, White thought.

While many people would have kept on driving, that’s not how White—whose girlfriend refers to him as Captain Harrisburg because of his perpetual instinct to help out—operates. He had to stop that vehicle.

Captain Harrisburg to the rescue

White busted a U-turn and was now facing in the same direction as the pickup, but there were four cars separating them. White honked his horn, hoping the cars in front would move aside. They didn’t. He tried to swing into the left lane and pass everyone, but oncoming traffic made it impossible.

Trapped, White pulled his car over, jumped out and sprinted up the sidewalk. The truck was going 10 to 15 miles per hour, White estimates. Captain Harrisburg—even in loafers—runs faster than a swerving pickup.

"I'm always trying to help where I can, when I can."

He darted into the road, running around to the driver’s side. The window was down on this temperate autumn day. White grabbed the frame of the window—his legs moving in step with the pickup—and with a mighty heave, leaped in.

White was now inside the cab of the truck, waist deep, his legs dangling out the window. The man behind the wheel, 64-year-old Todd DeAngelis, was just conscious enough to be startled by the peculiar sight of a stranger sprawled across his stomach, and he let out a yelp.

White worked quickly. They were coming up to a busy intersection, he recalls, “so I was trying to stop anything before it happened.”

He took hold of the gear shift and forced the pickup into park, causing it to jolt to a stop. He ejected himself from the truck window the same way he came in. By his estimate, he was in and out of the truck in about four seconds.

From outside the truck, White asked DeAngelis if he was OK. “No,” he replied, in a haze. DeAngelis, a diabetic, was unexpectedly facing dangerously low blood sugar.

White flagged down a police officer. An ambulance soon arrived and took DeAngelis to a hospital, where it was determined that had his blood sugar gone much lower, he could have gone into a diabetic coma.

“He kept me from a much worse accident than it could have been,” DeAngelis said after his recovery.

White’s actions that day were not out of character. As a teenager, he once kicked in the door of a house that was on fire to see if anyone was trapped inside. Fortunately, the house was empty.

“I’m always trying to help where I can, when I can,” he says.

But jumping into a moving vehicle to prevent a crash? White admits this was new territory.

“It took me a couple of days,” he says, “and a couple of beers, to chill out.”

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest