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Could you lift a car off your child?

Posted by Benedict Chude on

I don’t know if I could, despite anecdotal evidence that people can summon superhuman strength under extraordinary situations.

Today I was hanging out my cloth diaper stash, and I heard my son begin to cry hysterically. I saw him on the ground by a folded lounge chair that had trapped one of his fingers. I summoned my superhuman strength to run to him – and fell flat on my face in the grass.

I got to him despite what turned out to be superhuman clumsiness. And he was fine after a good cuddle.

But my fears were confirmed. If he were in trouble, I was afraid my body would not let me respond with the speed and strength that mothers of lore have been able to summon.

Or perhaps the situation was just not dire enough. Let’s look at some of the documented cases when people have seemed to exert extraordinary power (according to Skeptoid):

  • In one case in Colorado in 1995, a police officer arrived at a single-car accident where a Chevy Chevette ended up on top of a baby girl and sank into the mud. The officer lifted the car and the mother pulled the girl out.
  • In 2009, a man in Kansas lifted a Mercury sedan off of a six-year-old girl who had been trapped underneath when it backed out on top of her.
  • In 1960, a Florida mom lifted a Chevy Impala so that a neighbor could pull out her son, who had become trapped when he was working on the car and his jack collapsed.
  • There’s even the case where the MD 500D helicopter from Magnum, P.I. crashed in 1988, pinning the pilot under shallow water; and his burly friend (nicknamed Tiny) ran over and lifted the one-ton helicopter enough for the pilot to be pulled out.

Skeptoid points out that a couple things are usually helping in these dire situations. First, the adrenaline of the fight or flight response boosts your strength beyond what you would normally be able to lift consciously.

But since the maximum weight your body can lift even with this boost cannot exceed the structural capabilities of your body without causing it to collapse, there is usually another force assisting in the superhuman feat. Perhaps the car is only partially lifted while weight still rests on the suspension, the helicopter was simply rocked, and so on.

I didn’t see any anecdotes mentioning moms temporarily gaining lightning fast running abilities, so maybe my physical failure can be excused for now. I hope I never have to test it out with a car.


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