Sometimes ordinary days become days that change history. And often, it’s the ordinary people who do the changing.
On the morning of November 7, 1907, a railroad brakeman named Jesús Garcia Corona went to work, as usual. He worked on the train line that ran between Nacozari, Sonora, Mexico, and Douglas, Arizona; he had started working for the Moctezuma Copper Company as a waterboy at age 17, and worked his way up to switchman and then to brakeman.
When he reported for work that morning, the train’s operator, who would ordinarily oversee safety, had called out sick. In the operator’s absence, two cars of dynamite had been hooked up behind the engine, rather than at the back of the train. The train was departing from Nacozari when sparks from the engine began blowing out of the smokestack and onto the cars of dynamite.
Thinking quickly, Jesús slowed the car while another crewman tried to dump the smoldering dynamite boxes off the train, but the heavy boxes were too hard to move and had already caught fire. Jesús began driving the train out of town in reverse, at full throttle. He didn’t dare leave the train to run itself along the tracks; Nacozari was downhill and the train might slip back into town. Nacozari also had large gas reserves and dynamite in storage; an explosion could trigger a deadly chain reaction. Jesús warned the rest of the crew of the train to jump clear, insisting on driving alone.
The daring brakeman managed to drive the train well away from the town before the cars of dynamite exploded. Jesús Garcia Corona was credited with saving the town from disaster, and though his body was destroyed in the blast, a monument was erected in his honor. He was 25 years old. The American Red Cross declared him a Hero of Humanity, and many landmarks in Mexico bear his name. November 7th was declared Railroader’s Day for Mexican railroad workers. The town he saved changed its name to Nacozari de García.
Jesús Garcia Corona has been commemorated on two stamps: one from 1957 and, more recently, in 2007. An ordinary railroad worker became the hero on the stamp by placing the lives of others above his own.