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A complete stranger rescued me when I ran out of gas | The Homepage

What’s your ‘That’s so Pittsburgh’ story?

By Juliet Martinez, managing editor

The sun was setting on a frigid November day in 2016 when I glanced down at the dashboard of my minivan. My fuel light was on. The needle on the fuel gauge was way below the “E.”

Oops. I had seen that I needed gas in the morning, but it slipped my mind.

I had spent the last eight hours driving my mom to several appointments, running errands and finally picking up my then-6-year-old from school. Now, instead of going home, we needed gas. I crossed my fingers and hoped we could get to the gas station before the fumes ran out.

I was pretty new to Pittsburgh at the time, but I knew where to get gas. I drove toward my usual place, but a couple of miles away, my car shut off while I was stopped at a light. My luck — and my gas — were out.

Or so I thought.

I was on a downhill slope, so when the light changed, I rolled through the intersection and pulled over to the side of the road.

My husband was at work and couldn’t leave. I called for roadside assistance. The dispatcher said it would be an hour to an hour and a half wait. Meanwhile, my tired and hungry kid was in their booster in the back seat, asking in an increasingly freaked-out voice what was going on. With the engine off, the inside of the car was getting colder.

I was sitting there on the side of the road weighing my options and saying a prayer or two when another minivan pulled in front of mine. A woman around my age got out and asked me what was wrong. I explained, and she said, “OK. I’ve got you.”

She grabbed something out of her car and brought it back: an unopened sleeve of crackers for my child.

“You stay here and try to keep them calm,” she said. “I’ll be right back.”

She drove away and returned 10 minutes later with a bright red plastic gas can full of gasoline. I tried to pay her, but she just shook her head. She even insisted on dispensing the gas herself even though the wind was bitterly cold, and gas was spilling on her clothes.

“This is one mom to another,” she said.

Over the last seven and a half years, I’ve learned that this generosity is a Pittsburgh thing. I haven’t run out of gas again, but I have witnessed and been the recipient of this kind of selfless and spontaneous giving several times.

Whenever I see it, my heart glows with love for the people of my adopted city, and I think, “That’s so Pittsburgh.”

For a new series, I want to hear your stories. Maybe yours is even more specific: so Hazelwood, so New Homestead, so Four Mile Run, so Lincoln Place or so Greenfield.

To launch this series, I offer you a submission by David Bisacca from Lincoln Place. In his essay, he tells about seeing Pittsburgh through new eyes — those of a friend who came here for the first time in 2019. I hope you’ll read it on Page 12 and let me know what you think.

But most of all, I want to know about your “That’s so Pittsburgh” story. Email me your story — shoot for 500 words or fewer — at

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