My mother was a hero. Bona fide.

One very hot summer day a man we knew was walking to the bus stop. He had Parkinson’s Disease and was unsteady on his feet. He fell. My mother, who was bare footed at the time, told me to stay put while she tore off across the street to help the man. Once the crisis was over, we discovered that she had second degree burns on her feet along with abrasions from running in the street and along the pavement of the sidewalk.

In May of 1966 I was 14 years old. A small gang attacked a Latina named Carmen. She was badly beaten – kicked, beaten with fists, and razor bladed. Like the man with Parkinson’s, mom went to administer first aid. I went with her, as did my brother, Pete. It was a bloody mess and Carmen was unable to do anything except to moan. My mother told me to run to the neighbors and get a wash cloth. Some of the neighbors did not come to the door, although I could see them through their windows. One actually opened her door but would not give me a cloth. I asked her to at least call the police.

The police soon arrived and after that the ambulance. A crowd began to gather and while they were getting Carmen into the ambulance, my mother said she felt faint. I told her to get down and put her head between her legs. (I had heard to do this from somewhere.) I helped her down and she sighed and passed out in my arms as I laid her back on the grass. Believing she had fainted, I went to the ambulance attendant and told him she had fainted. One of our neighbors, who had gathered with the crowd, was a veterinarian. He distracted me while the ambulance guy checked out mom. He then told me to go call my dad at work. I was calling dad when mom was placed on a gurney and loaded into the ambulance.

By the time dad arrived, the ambulance was gone. Dad loaded up my brother and me and we headed to the hospital. There was a room directly off the ER that seems to my memory to have been empty. Across the room alone on a gurney was mom. As the three of us approached, I could see she was dead.

Later in May the State Senate met in an Extraordinary Session and unanimously passed a resolution.

Whereas, Mrs. Joyce K paid for her bravery with her life, but her unselfish deed will stand as a paramount example of the unhesitating action, in the face of unknown dangers and consequences, of citizens who take heed of the plight of their fellow citizens; now, therefore, be it resolved by the Senate of the State of California, that the Members express by this resolution their deepest sympathy to the family of Mrs. Joyce K upon the untimely death of this remarkable woman who, without regard for her own safety, went to the aid of a fellow citizen in distress and, while protecting one life, paid for her bravery with her own life.

Yeah. My mother is a bona fide hero.

However, I have since then thought many times about the myriad mothers in the Black and Latin/x communities who have likewise given their lives but without any recognition at all. There are many bona fide heroes all around us if we only have eyes to see.

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