When his alarm clock rang at 6:45 a.m. on Nov. 19, Caleb Frazier, a junior at East Hall High School, very nearly skipped school that day, the Friday before Thanksgiving break.
“School, for me, I've kind of gotten tired for it, and I’m not going to lie, I miss a lot of days and usually the day before a break I don't go to school, because we don't really do nothing but hang around and watch movies,” Caleb said.
But the chance to see friends one last time before the weeklong holiday spurred him out of bed.
“I was lying on my bed scrolling through social media, and I was just like, ‘Man, you know what, it's Friday. I'm going to go see my homies one last day before I don't get to see them for the rest of the week,’” he said. “I was like, ‘Suck it up. Go hang out with friends one more day.’”
His decision would prove fateful.
He got ready and cranked up his black 2013 Ford Mustang GT convertible. Drew Doker, his friend who currently lives with him, jumped in the passenger seat. Caleb’s “brother,” Danny Smith, a cousin who his family adopted, squeezed into the back. Drew is a junior and Danny a freshman at East Hall.
They approached the school around 8 a.m. blasting Justin Moore’s “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away,” when an incoming phone call drew Caleb’s eyes away from the road so he could turn down the radio.
When he looked back up, he saw a 2006-ish Chevy Malibu plow into Lester Harris, the school’s 70-year-old traffic guard, carrying him about 40 feet before he rolled off the right side of the hood and fell at the end of a residential driveway.
“That man just got hit!” Caleb yelled.
The students estimated the driver, 20-year-old Leroy Trendale Macon, was going well above the school-zone speed limit.
Caleb jerked his steering wheel to the right, sending his car into a shallow ditch on the side of the road. He and Drew jumped out before the car had even come to a complete stop, followed by Danny. “We were still moving really fast,” Drew said.
As they ran to the other side of the road, Drew was the first one to reach Harris. He said Macon was on top of a motionless Harris pounding on his chest with both hands, apparently trying to revive him. He pushed Macon off and performed two chest compressions right before Caleb slid up on his knees.
Caleb knew exactly what he had to do. With aspirations of enlisting in the Army as a combat medic, he had paid careful attention during a CPR-certification class in eighth grade.
He checked for a pulse on Harris’s neck but couldn’t quite find it. He then placed two fingers on Harris’s wrist — no pulse. He put his fingers under Harris’s nose — no breath.
Harris had entered cardiac arrest and had only minutes to live.
“I have to do CPR,” Caleb said, at which point Macon ran back up to Harris and started beating on his chest again. “He kept on trying to hit him in the chest to bring him back to life,” Drew said, who finally bear hugged Macon and restrained him.
Before Caleb could begin performing CPR, though, he and Drew had to remove some of the many layers Harris was wearing, including a thick set of coveralls, the collar of which was pressing against his airway.
“I’ll tell you something, that man was not getting cold,” Caleb said.
All the while, cars were backed up and buses were blaring their horns, unable to see what was going on.
“I looked up and I saw like eight or nine buses,” Danny said. “The buses are honking at cars because they're not moving. So I just got out there and started directing traffic, trying to get traffic under control.”
In the span of about a minute, Caleb performed 28 chest compressions before Harris gasped and came to, disoriented and mumbling.
Caleb’s mom, Jennifer, a certified nursing assistant at the Lumpkin County hospital, arrived shortly after.
“He had started coming back a little more, and we were talking to him,” Caleb said. “He was able to tell us his wife's name and he could squeeze our hands.”
They stayed with Harris until the paramedics arrived.
“When it was all over with, I stood there and Caleb wrapped his arm around me and I wrapped my arm around him, we hugged, and we both had tears in our eyes,” Jennifer said. “I looked at him and I said, ‘I’m so proud of you. You saved that man’s life.’”
As The Times spoke with the young men at the scene on Tuesday, cars were speeding up the exact road where Harris was hit. Caleb suggested the sign should be farther from the crossing to alert heavy-footed drivers.
“Hall County needs another sign,” he said. “That sign should probably be like 50 yards that way.”
Each of the young men shunned the “hero” label.
“Our principal had told us that he was going to announce it over the intercom,” Caleb said. “And we were like, ‘We would rather you not, please.’”
“We really didn't want to be recognized for it,” Caleb said. “I didn't do it because I knew people were going to congratulate me. I did it out of the kindness of my heart. I know that man has another family somewhere, and if I was hit by a car I would like for somebody to stop and check on me and help me out as much as they could.”
Nonetheless, East Hall Principal Jeff Cooper praised their “heroism” and said he is “super proud of the boys,” especially in light of their young age.
Caleb’s mom agreed and said young folks often don’t get enough credit for their goodness and maturity.
“That's what our future holds, is these young fellows,” she said. “They are our future.”
Harris was taken to Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville. No updates on his condition were available. Hall County Schools spokesman Stan Lewis previously said the school system believes “he is going to be OK.”
State patrol post commander D.A. Rathel said charges are pending.