Rushing to Help a Stranger

A warning, this story has a very bittersweet ending…. but I believe it still has the power to renew one’s faith in humanity.

Many New Yorkers get a bad rap. A lot of people point to the huge city as a place where people have lost their concern for their fellow man. A place where people won’t stop to help another person in trouble.

About thirty people blew that perception out of the water just this past week.

On Thursday, Donnette Sanz left her desk at the New York Police Department to head out to lunch. Sanz normally served as a traffic agent with the department— directing traffic and issuing parking tickets— but had been placed on administrative duty when she became pregnant. As of last week, she was seven months along.

She walked out of the Bronx office and waited for the light at one of the busiest intersections in the borough. The light changed. She started to cross.

She didn’t notice a van barreling toward the intersection. The van’s driver would later say that his brakes failed. And police reports would indicate that the brakes had indeed deteriorated to the point that the van was unsafe to drive. The driver says he saw Sanz but couldn’t stop.

The impact threw Sanz in front of a moving yellow school bus (no children were inside). And she became pinned underneath.

The crowd immediately rushed into action. Witnesses say that people converged from all directions and just started trying to lift the school bus. In all, it took about thirty people to make the superhuman effort. They eventually lifted the 5-ton bus off of Sanz, and someone pulled her out. She was still alive.

An ambulance rushed her to the hospital, where doctors performed a C-section. Little Sean weighed only 3 pounds, 6 ounces, but doctors say he is showing signs of improvement.

Donette was alive for the birth. But passed away about an hour later.

Still, her family says they are grateful to those who rushed to help her. While the loss of Donnette is great— without the quick action of people who didn’t even know her, the family also would have lost Sean.

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