The 7-year-old boy stayed close to his brother. Concern was etched all over his face. He was trying hard to hold back his tears. His backpack, looking more bulky than his slight frame, was slung over his shoulders. He wouldn’t let go of his brother’s own backpack, deploying its wheels and holding on to it by its handle. His small red and white bicycle was lying on the street corner. His brother’s own wheels were in the middle of the street, just a few feet away, its front wheel pinned under the right front tire of the pickup truck.
From the time the first Lathrop Police Officer arrived at the scene of the accident on the intersection of McKee Boulevard and Village Avenue at Mossdale Landing in Lathrop, to the time the paramedics finally wheeled his older brother on a gurney to the next block where a medical helicopter was waiting in a vacant lot, the young boy stuck right next to his brother.
He stayed close while his brother sat on the street corner, both hands holding his head, while a Good Samaritan consoled him and the driver of the pick-up truck that hit him and his two small grandchildren stood next to the police officer who was kneeling in front of the injured boy and talking to him. The young brother watched as the paramedics attended to his brother and assessed his situation. He knelt down crying, wiping his eyes with the front end of his striped shirt, when they brought a gurney where they lay his brother down.
After his brother has been airlifted by the REACH helicopter to the University of California, Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, two members of the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District walked up to where the tearful and forlorn young boy, still with his backpack and helmet on, was standing next to his grandparents, Ron and Addie McCoy, and their pastor, Dr. Willie Anderson of Image Changers Church of Lathrop. From several feet away, I watched with fascination as one of the two men – Fire Engineer Scott Nussbaumer, I later found out – knelt in front of 7-year-old Allen Thompson and said a few words before placing a fire district sticker onto the front of his shirt. The fire engineer then offered his right hand in a handshake which the young boy took, his face now looking a little calmer. Watching this moving visual vignette while standing next to Nussbaumer was LMFD reserve firefighter Bryan Smith.
The tableau really fascinated me to the point I almost forgot to capture the Kodak moment. After watching young Allen scared and tearful next to his hurt older brother, it was good to see him smiling through his tears as he accepted the “gift” from Nussbaumer and then shook hands with him.
Monday morning’s unfortunate incident, which happened at the busy time when students are on their way to school – in this case, the Mossdale Elementary School on Steve McKee Boulevard just a block south of Lathrop City Hall – revealed another aspect of young children’s vulnerability to such traumatic incidents.
Girl becomes unglued
The girl, who was the granddaughter of the driver and who witnessed the accident, became unglued and cried nonstop right after the paramedics arrived. At first, she tried to hold on to her grandfather’s arm but he was too preoccupied with answering questions from police and fire personnel. She then turned to me, and as I offered her words of comfort, she put her arms around me and continued to tightly cling to me for several minutes, all the while crying in a shaking voice, “I’m scared! I’m scared! I want to go to school!”
At one point, her 11-year-old brother took a hold of her on the shoulders and said firmly, “Snap out of it!” Despite the gravity of the situation at hand, I found myself smiling inside as I visualized a scene from an old movie with the character of Cher shouting the same words at one of the male actors in the movie. I couldn’t help wondering where the older brother heard those words. When I offered that his sister was just simply scared, he said in a mature-sounding voice, “that’s the only way” he knew to get his sister calmed down.
The young girl did stop crying when retired Calla High School principal Lindsay Munoz showed up. He explained that he was a substitute administrator at Mossdale School for a month – he was originally asked to serve four months but could only do one. After talking to the two children, he led them to his vehicle. Since I was caught up with covering the incident as a reporter and photographer at the scene, I was not able to take note if Munoz drove the students to school after that.
But it was what happened next which, to me, was a manifestation of the goodness of human beings. I watched, truly amazed, as the injured boy’s grandmother smiled at the grandfather driver then gave him a hug. The gesture so moved Victor Pothipinya, the grandfather, that he started crying. As before, I was so moved by the sight that I almost forgot to use my camera and capture the moment.
To use the old cliché, it was the worst of times for some concerned, but it was also the best of times. Fortunately for the McCoys, their older grandson was not seriously injured and was discharged that same day from UCD Medical Center where he was treated and released.