It may seem as though crossing guards have one job: to get people from one side of the road to another. But their overall goal is to promote safety and, sometimes, that means they have to go above and beyond their routine duties.
One California crossing guard proved this to be true when she heard a child begging for help. The crossing guard relied on both her patrolling know-how and her fierce motherly instinct to save the eight-year-old from impending danger.
Measuring in at just 4 feet 8 inches, Adrian Young might not have the imposing stature one would expect of a person tasked with directing traffic. But in August 2016, she had no trouble going about her job guiding drivers and pedestrians to safely travel to and from an East Hollywood elementary school.
However, that summer day would require her to do more than just help parents and students cross the road. Young had just finished work when she heard a child begging her for help. She later recalled to <i>KTLA</i> that the child was repeatedly crying: “Please help me, Miss Crossing Guard, please help me.”
On the surface, the child’s situation would not have seemed like a dangerous or out-of-the-ordinary one. Rather, she was holding hands with an adult and appeared to be heading home after a day at school. But her tearful plea for help proved something was terribly awry.
According to the Los Angeles Police Department, Maria Ramirez, 50, approached the young girl at the end of the day. She gripped the child by the hand and held on tight. “Come on, come on,” she said, guiding her away from school grounds.
The child instantly knew she was in danger – she did not know the woman whose hand she was holding. By the time she reached Young, she was panicking. “The little girl just started screaming, she was like: ‘Please, don’t let her take me, I don’t know her, she’s not my mom,’” Young told <i>ABC 7 News</i>.
Young didn’t hesitate to assist the helpless child who couldn’t free herself from Ramirez’s grasp. “I kind of went into mother mode at the time, and as a crossing guard, because I couldn’t see myself letting this little girl be taken,” she said.
But the odds were stacked against the diminutive crossing guard and the child in need. “The lady was bigger than me,” she told <i>KTLA</i>. Her solution? Young recalls that she instructed the eight-year-old to “hold onto me as tight as she can, because both of us were very small.”
The alleged kidnapper wasn’t willing to give up without a fight. Young told <i>ABC 7 News</i>: “I held onto [the child] and the lady just began to attack me, so I just thought about attacking her to make sure she can’t take this little girl.”
That’s when the crossing guard went on the offensive, punching Ramirez until she released her grip on the child. With her quick thinking and fearless attempts to fight the stranger away, Young saved the eight-year-old from a would-be kidnapping.
Afterward, the community lauded Young for her heroic decision. Colleen Riley, a woman who lived in the neighborhood, said, “I’m so proud of her. We’re so lucky to have women like her and crossing guards and all the agents around here that take care of the children. I feel really, really grateful.”
The child’s mother, Sharon Arellano, had mixed feelings in the wake of her daughter’s attempted abduction. She said the school should put more work into protecting children around campus. “To me, I didn’t feel that they did what they needed to do to keep my child safe,” she said. “Thankfully, someone helped her.”
At the same time, Arellano told <em>Inside Edition</em> that she is “very thankful” for the crossing guard, even hugging Young to show her gratitude. “If it hadn’t been for her,” she said, “I don’t know where my daughter would be right now.”
City officials also showed their appreciation for Young. On September 21, 2016, city councilman Mitch O’Farrell presented her with a certificate of recognition for her bravery. Beneath her name, the certificate identified her as the “Hero Crossing Guard.”
In presenting Young the certificate, the politician said: “Superheroes come in small packages.” He was obviously referencing her heroics on the day of the attempted kidnapping, but also her hard work in making sure the woman was apprehended by police.
Both Young and the eight-year-old child worked with the LAPD to provide a detailed account of the woman who had tried to kidnap her. Their memories helped the police to pinpoint Maria Ramirez as their suspect.
O’Farrell told <i>ABC 7</i>: “She’s being charged with attempted kidnapping, which is a very serious charge.” Her actions would have an effect on the rest of her life, he said. “She’ll be in the criminal justice system and she is justifiably in a world of hurt.”
By the time Young received her certificate of recognition from the city, Ramirez was in jail until someone could pay her $100,000 bail. Of course, she might have walked free – or walked away with the schoolgirl– if not for the school crossing guard with a strong motherly instinct.
This was not lost on O’Farrell, who said in the award ceremony: “Because of her diligence, training and awareness and just because she cares so much about children, [Young] prevented what could have been a kidnapping of a child.”