David McClister for Reader's DigestCaleb Martin’s shift as a fast-food cook ended at around 8:30 p.m. on New Year’s Day, and the 18-year-old hopped into his car for the quick drive home through the wooded back roads of Pegram, Tennessee.
Shortly after he turned left onto Old Sams Creek Road, an SUV coming toward him made a U-turn, pulling into Caleb’s lane about 15 feet in front of him.
Just then, a woman came out of nowhere and staggered toward the SUV in the middle of the road. “I figured the driver would go around her or stop to help,” Caleb says.
Instead, the SUV driver slowed down and swerved toward the woman, forced her back to the shoulder, and pinned her against the guardrail. Caleb jammed on the brakes, honked, and lowered his window, yelling for the other driver to stop. The man stuck his head out his window to glare at Caleb, then backed up and sped away.
Caleb pulled to the side of the road and ran to the sobbing woman, Jenna Newman, 28, who was bleeding from her chest and left arm. Jacob speed-dialed 911 and helped Jenna to his car. She explained that her boyfriend, Kenneth Clinton, 67, had shot her at close range but that she had managed to open the car door and jump out. Caleb, concerned that his 1992 Buick might break down before they made it to the hospital, ten miles away, directed the 911 dispatcher to send an ambulance to his nearby house, where he lived with his grandparents.
“Am I going to die?” Jenna wailed as they raced down the road.
“No,” he said. “I won’t let you die.”
Once they reached the house, Caleb’s grandmother Patricia King helped Jenna to a recliner in the living room and pressed clean rags onto her wounds.
When Cheatham County Sheriff’s Office deputy Gary Ola arrived, he took statements from Caleb and Jenna before an ambulance transported her to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, about 20 miles away in Nashville.
Caleb rode with the cops back to the crime scene and showed them where Jenna had been pinned to the guardrail. Over the police radio, they heard a dispatch that Kenneth Clinton had taken his own life at a nearby park.
Caleb believes his own past as a physically abused child at the hands of his mother’s boyfriends galvanized him to rush to Jenna’s aid.
“I couldn’t just leave her,” he says. “If somebody needs help, you help.”
In the weeks that followed, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed a resolution “to honor and commend Caleb for heroism,” and Safe Haven Cheatham County, a home for domestic violence survivors, invited him to cut the ribbon at its grand opening.
In February, Caleb received a letter from Jenna, thanking him for saving her. “She called me her angel,” he says.