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This is something that often surprises people: I was never an “It takes a village” person. I always thought: “You take care of your child. I’ll take care of mine. And we’ll all be good.” But then, an 8-year-old with blood all over her face came running toward me.

This was a few weeks ago and seconds earlier, I had been in my car, about to make a right turn at a pretty big intersection. When I looked to the left to be sure I was clear, I saw there had been an accident. I quickly realized it had just happened.

I hesitated for a minute, and then I saw 2 young girls climbing out of the backseat. One had blood on her face and hands and clothes. I looked at the driver’s door and could only see air bags. My brain said, “The mom’s hurt. She’s not getting out.” I flung my door open and headed in their direction.

That’s when the little girl saw me. She was screaming and I really couldn’t make out what she was saying, but she grabbed on to me. I held on to her. I told her she had been in an accident, but she was ok. Over the next 15 minutes, I repeated that many times.

Her older sister was composed, and she asked me if I had called 911. My phone was still in the car but I looked at the people who had gathered on the sidewalk and yelled, “Did anyone call 911?”

So here’s the only part of this story that makes me scratch my head a bit. No one had. And they kind of looked at us like they weren’t sure why we were asking.

The older sister – a young teen – whipped out her phone from her back pocket and dialed 911.

We went to the sidewalk and they sat on the curb. Their young babysitter had been driving, and she eventually sat alongside them. I went down the row, looking each one in the eye and telling them they were ok. I hoped I was right.

A Virtua nurse appeared (like an angel) and said to me, “You ok? Everything ok?” I said, “No – we need you.” She went to her car and came back with a First Aid kit. The older sister called her mom (she couldn’t reach her, so you know how that mom felt when she heard what happened). Then she called her dad and handed me the phone.

Reaching for that phone, it hit me: I was here to take care of this man’s children. I wanted to, I felt compelled to. I was caring for them like I would my own. Somehow I hoped he knew that I would do whatever was needed to make sure they were safe now.

I was his village.

I tried to speak very calmly as I explained what had happened, that his children were ok, but he should get here as soon as possible. I knew his mind had to be spinning at this call, and I was hoping to bring him some ease.

After the police came and I could hear the siren of an ambulance, I said goodbye to the girls and went on my way.

Weeks later, thanks to social media and a string of people (many of whom I don’t know), the family connected with me and I spoke to the girls’ dad once again. He told me they were ok. I described to him the scene I came upon and was able to tell him how calm his older daughter was – how she took care of her sister and was the only one who called 911. That had impressed me, but also worried me because she didn’t seem to be reacting to what had happened. He thanked me, which wasn’t necessary.

I’ve thought about that afternoon a lot, and I am so glad I was there at that very moment. It makes me happy to think a little girl who needed help saw me and ran in my direction. I’ve also come to the conclusion that everyone I know would do what I did. I’m certain of that.

And there you have it: my village. All these years I thought I didn’t believe in the concept, but it turns out, this South Jersey community has been my village all along. One little girl helped me see how important that is. I’m the one who’s grateful.

 

August 2021
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