EAST LOS ANGELES — Superman. Thor. Spider-Man. X-Men. It seems that nowadays there is no shortage of superheroes, typically men saving those who can’t help themselves. But we don’t have to look to the skies or go a movie to find a true hero. Often, they are right in front of us. On Friday, while standing in a long line at the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office in East L.A., I witnessed one such hero in action: a sixty-something mom.
Friday is the busiest day of the week at that office, with long lines forming and customers jostling for space to complete their paperwork, often with kids in tow. Only a few at a time get to go inside to the public counter. Most wait outside. A big, heavy door is constantly swinging out as customers leave. The place is a zoo.
“CAUTION-Door opens outward” is appropriately posted on that big door. Unfortunately, for a pint-sized toddler of at most two-years old, it means nothing. One such little boy got away from his dad, who was busy filling out forms, and decided to stand right in front of the door. I and others outside in line could see a person had just left the counter and was on his way out and unaware of the child on the other side of the solid door. In seconds, the child would surely suffer a head-on collision. I cringed.
From across the patio, a loud, booming voice yelled “Watch out!” The place went quiet. Movement stopped. The door was partly open but not moving. The person looked out to see what the commotion was about. The child was fine. Sighs of relief and little “hurrays” began to come out.
An older lady picked up the child, embracing him warmly, and asked, “Are you okay, mijo?” It was the security guard whose voice had been heard moments earlier. Or, I should say, that’s just her alter ego. She is really a mother, clearly vigilant.
Catalina Rojas has worked as an armed security guard for eighteen years but less than a year at this East L.A. office. Now in her 60s, she raised kids of her own and is great grandmother to a four-year old girl. Once she knew the boy was okay, she smiled and quickly went back to work.
On the way out, I thanked her and asked her why she did it. “It was a mother’s instinct,” she said. On that day, she was a heroine too, saving a child from harm, not with a gun but with her heart.
C.J. Salgado is a resident of East Los Angeles