PARKVILLE — As a teenager growing up in Parkville in the 1960s, John Eschenbach became addicted to heroin. After he was expelled from high school for selling and using drugs, he received medication treatment while incarcerated in a state hospital and prison, but it wasn’t successful. He spent nine years living in addiction before he realized that he had a higher purpose and gave his life to Jesus. He has now been free of drugs for 46 years.
This is an abbreviated biography of Eschenbach’s early life and constitutes an integral part of the memoir that he wrote and is scheduled to publish in October.
His 23-chapter book, titled “Rescued: A True Story of Redemption, Pardon and Second Chances,” speaks about how Eschenbach rebounded from the events of his youth to have a 44-year career employed by the railroad, break free from addiction by the “miraculous grace and mercy of God,” and become a productive member of society.
“I wanted to document my story to leave a spiritual heritage for my children and grandchildren,” Eschenbach said in an interview. “If even one person is helped by my telling my story, it will have made all of the time and effort I invested worth it.”
He started as an apprentice carpenter at the passenger railroad company Amtrak, and through professional experience and training, he moved up to eventually become the senior project director of Amtrak’s Southwest Division. He then went on to serve as a professional railroad consultant with Jacobs Engineering Group for 10 years and retired in April 2020.
Eschenbach said that the book’s subtitle refers to real-life events and experiences that he writes about. “Redemption” is for when he was redeemed by Christ as a “born-again Christian.” “Pardon” is for the governor’s pardon that he obtained for expungement of his felony convictions, and “second chances” is for the second chance that Amtrak gave him with his criminal record.
For his redemption, Eschenbach said that he had four times in his life that led him to the conclusion that he needed to fully surrender his life to Jesus Christ.
His first was in Spring Grove Hospital Center, a psychiatric hospital in Baltimore County. His second was in a Carroll County drug rehabilitation center. His third was while he was in a state prison on a decreasing dose of prescribed methadone. His fourth and final was when he was arrested while on parole.
“I made a commitment to Christ, because I realized that if my life did not change, I would end up in prison for the rest of my life or dead as a drug addict,” he said. “I had to allow God to be the Lord of my life.”
For his pardon, multiple recommenders submitted letters along with Eschenbach’s pardon application to former Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes, and on Dec. 11, 1982, Hughes granted him a full pardon for all of his felony offenses.
For the “second chances,” Eschenbach writes about the second-chance hire from Amtrak.
He never thought he’d clinch the job, because he had to explain his history of drug use to an Amtrak employer. In his job application, Eschenbach checked “yes” on the box questioning whether he was a convicted felon; as a Christian, he said, he did not want to lie. A month later, to his surprise, he was invited in for an interview, and when asked about the felony conviction, he, with a “lump in his throat,” told the employer everything.
Eschenbach left the matter in God’s hands, and a month later, he received another call. In September 1976, he was hired at Amtrak as an apprentice carpenter.
“Throughout the book, there is a thread about how God spoke to me and guided me,” he said. “I knew that if God wanted me to have a job on the railroad, I would have a job on the railroad.”
Eschenbach plans to use the book as a tool for Christian outreach for those in prisons, troubled youth and adults, church members and others.
“As you read this book, it is my hope that you will find the same loving father that I found,” he said in the introduction to his book. “God worked miracles in my life to rescue and change me. He can do the same for you.”
If you are interested in learning more about John Eschenbach and the release of his memoir, please visit his Facebook page using the link: https://facebook.com/JBach700. Or visit his website: jbachbook.com
Local pastor Jimmy Cannon of Sovereign Grace Church in White Marsh, endorses Eschenbach’s book and remembers him well while living in Edgewood, Maryland.
“This story exemplifies What God’s grace is truly all about.”
Retired Amtrak President & CEO David Hughes endorses Eschenbach's book.
"I first met John in 2005 while touring job sites in southern California as Amtrak’s chief engineering officer. Within an afternoon, it became clear that he was a highly competent engineer and a well-regarded high functioning individual. John was the indispensable man. I never suspected that he did not come from a traditional professional engineering background or that he had a troubled past. It didn’t matter: all that counted was who he had become.
John’s story of redemption and personal growth is a tribute to the power of human tenacity and the abundance brought by strong faith.
Rescued is an example, step by step, for young people with a troubled past to rebuild their lives."