MILWAUKEE -- An off-duty Milwaukee police officer was critically injured when he was struck by a wrong-way driver on I-94. Six weeks later, friends and supporters at Shank Hall organized a fundraiser to benefit Officer Albert, called "Jokes for Josh."
Officer Josh Albert was on hand for the fundraiser Wednesday night.
"This is kind of a reunion for me -- a reunion after an accident that almost took me away," Officer Albert said.
Milwaukee Police Officer Katie Anderer was first on the scene when her partner, Officer Albert was hit head on by 23-year-old Erin Salmon, who was allegedly driving drunk.
"I remember bits and pieces. I remember Katie (Anderer) coming up to the car and asking me if I was okay. She wanted to sing to me," Officer Albert said.
"All of a sudden out of nowhere this car came. It looked like an explosion of pieces just going everywhere. It was terrifying. I was like, 'oh my God, this is my partner. He's one of my best friends,'" Anderer said.
The officers were headed home from duty on September 5th just after midnight, driving in separate cars on I-94.
"We would follow each other home every night. I'm usually the first car, and he's normally behind me," Anderer said.
"She's my guardian angel. Had she not been there that night, things may have been different. Thankfully, she was," Anderer said.
Albert had several broken bones, including his pelvis. His diaphragm was ruptured and he had bleeding on his brain.
"He was conscious and breathing. He was sweating profusely and he had a rim of blue above his lip so I knew he wasn't getting enough air. All I did was make sure he stayed conscious until the paramedics arrived. You want to be strong for them. You don't want them to see that fear in your eyes. I knew he was gonna beat the odds because of his willpower and how strong he is," Anderer said.
After a month in the hospital, Albert has been recovering at home, in a wheelchair. It will likely be months before he can return to work.
"Hopefully by December I will be up and walking. The doctors may not agree, but by June I'm hoping to be back to work," Officer Albert said.
Wednesday night, Albert's partner is hosted a fundraiser with the help of Milwaukee comedian Dobie Maxwell. Maxwell is Anderer's cousin, and as it turns out, the survivor of a near-fatal car accident himself.
"As a citizen of Milwaukee, and as a human being, it's such a horrible story and I wanted to help. I can relate to his pain and I wanted to reach out for my cousin, for Officer Albert, and just for Milwaukee to bring it together. You gotta know that people are reaching out to you. It kept me going when I was in that situation. Now it's my turn to pay back," Maxwell said.
"I said (to Josh): 'you can't laugh too hard because you don't want to bust a stitch,'" Anderer said.
100% of the money raised during this fundraiser will benefit Officer Albert.
Additionally, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett issued a proclamation at the event declaring Wednesday "Joshua Albert Day."
Salmon has been charged with second-degree recklessly endangering safety and injury by intoxicated use of a vehicle, both related to the wrong-way I-94 crash. A criminal complaint indicates Salmon was allegedly involved in two other crashes that night, before she slammed into Officer Albert's vehicle. Salmon will stand trial in this case.
As for Salmon, Officer Albert says he bears no grudge, and everything happens for a reason.