A few weeks ago, Christopher Cummings was behind the wheel of his county garbage truck when he watched a police squad car crash, flip and badly injure the officer inside. Cummings, 52, pulled him out and was declared a hero Tuesday when Miami-Dade’s mayor honored him with a proclamation.
Naturally, the talk turned to second chances. But not for the rescued officer.
“Twenty years ago I used to be homeless,” Cummings told Mayor Carlos Gimenez and the other elected leaders who gathered around him. “Twenty years ago, I used to eat out of the garbage can. Twenty years ago, I used to smoke crack cocaine.”
Cummings credited his heroics to God. The faith that led him from a life of dealing cocaine and then a life of poverty in Miami. He lived on the streets for about four years. Then he walked from 95th Street to 20th Street, and checked into the Miami Rescue Mission’s homeless program. Cummings said he got sober and took a church deacon’s advice to apply for a temporary position in the county’s sanitation department. That set him on the path that led him to the scene of a wrecked police cruiser.
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Twenty years ago I used to be homeless. Twenty years ago, I used to eat out of the garbage can. Twenty years ago, I used to smoke crack cocaine.
Christopher Cummings, sanitation worker for Miami-Dade
“Twenty years ago, God gave me a second chance,” said Cummings, a married father of four. “I take every day of my life seriously. Whatever I can do to help anybody, that’s what I do.”
He turned 52 on March 21 and thought about staying home for his birthday. “But I said: ‘No, I’m going to work today,’ ” Cummings said. When he pulled his Miami-Dade sanitation truck near the intersection of Northwest 87th Avenue and 18th Street that morning, he happened to be one of the first people to see a crash that sent a county officer to the hospital. Police said the officer, who hasn’t been publicly identified, collided with another vehicle while trying to pull over a third car.
Cummings said the squad car flipped, and then came to rest on its wheels. The veteran garbage-truck driver said the officer yelled for help. “He was like, ‘Get me out,’ ” Cummings told a Channel 10 camera crew at the accident scene. “So I reached in, and grabbed his bulletproof vest and pulled him out of there.”
On Tuesday, Cummings elaborated. “It wasn’t me,” he said. “It was God.”
Juan Perez, the county’s police director, praised Cummings for making good use of his reclaimed life.
“God gave you a second chance,” Perez said. “And you have chosen to make a difference. And you gave somebody a second chance.”