Sixteen-year veteran Omnitrans Coach Operator (CO) Derman Redman was taking break one recent day at the San Bernardino Transit Center, and stopped to catch up with fellow CO Urbanita Ramon. She mentioned a flyer that she’d seen, asking for help finding a missing local man with developmental disabilities. He’d been away from home for two weeks.
“It lay heavy on my heart,” said Urbanita. “My brother is physically and mentally disabled, and I feel a kinship to people who live with disabilities. That’s what made me share the information with my fellow drivers – I even posted it online to help get the word out.”
The story also captured Derman’s attention, and he asked what the man looked like so that he could keep an eye out for him. Urbanita’s description sounded familiar; when she showed Derman the photo from the missing person flier, he couldn’t believe it.
“I know that guy!” said Derman. He recognized Roger, a regular passenger from his days driving Route 10. “But two weeks, wow. That’s a long time. Who knows what could have happened by now?”
Derman went on his way, but the story stayed with him all day, through his shift, and that night at home. Roger rode Derman’s bus for almost 10 years, and they had developed a good rapport.
“He was always friendly and nice,” Derman remembered. “Very quiet, but he would give you the shirt off of his back if you asked him.”
At work on his route the next morning, Derman pulled up to a stop and opened the doors as usual. There was a man waiting who looked a bit the worse for wear – his socks were muddy, and his hair was long and unkempt. But Derman thought he recognized him. He did a double take. Yes, he was pretty sure – the man was Roger!
“To be honest, the thought crossed my mind, ‘Did I summon this guy?’” Derman said. “I couldn’t move at first. Then I went up to him and asked, ‘Roger, is that you?’”
Roger simply said, “Yes,” as if all was normal.
“Are you lost?”
“No.” Very firm.
“Are you sure you’re not lost?”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“When was the last time you went home?”
“I don’t know.”
“Are you sure you’re not lost?”
“I’m trying to get home right now,” Roger said. But Derman realized that he was at the wrong bus stop.
At that point, Derman decided to take action. Asking his bus full of passengers to “please wait, I’ll be right back,” Derman told Roger to “sit tight, and don’t move.” Trusting Derman, Roger stayed put. Derman ran as fast as he could into the transit center, to find Supervisor Ricky Williams. He burst into the break room, out of breath, shouting “Ricky, I found that guy! The missing guy!”
Running back out to his stop to check on Roger and his passengers, Derman saw the missing person flyer on Roger hanging from the fence.
“I kept looking at the flyer and at the man. Could it really be him? And it was,” said a relieved Derman.
Ricky contacted Roger’s caregiver, Brigette Flowers, who drove all the way from Riverside to pick him up. She and her husband had been out looking for Roger every night for 12 days. He now is reunited with his family and recovering well from his ordeal.
“We got lots of calls during that time from people who said they saw Roger, but we never could pin him down,” Brigette said. “It’s drivers like Derman who see people like Roger every day, and care about them.”
Brigette isn’t Derman’s only fan. When he arrived home that night, he told his family about what had happened during his eventful day. “Daddy, you’re like a hero!” his daughter said.
“No, we just do a lot of things out there,” said Derman, trying to play down his role. But she wasn’t having it. “No, Daddy, anything could have happened to that man. You did a good thing.”