By MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ
Walking out of the newsroom on Wednesday proved far more interesting than I anticipated.
It was a little after 5 p.m. when I planned to call it a day. I was excited to be going home so early, especially since it had been a long day and I was feeling particularly drained. We had just wrapped up the South Padre Parade, our weekly sister magazine published by the Port Isabel-South Padre Press, and began preparations for the weekend edition of the San Benito News as well as our upcoming livestock shows guide.
With so much on my mind, it’s no wonder why I initially didn’t notice anything strange about the little boy who had just run past me in our office parking lot.
He was wearing what appeared to be a black cardigan, blue jeans and couldn’t be any older than 2, maybe 3 years old. The child was giggling, his face flushed and running at a particularly furious pace—all the indications of a rather mischievous moment in the boy’s life. “He looks like he’s having fun,” I thought to myself. Still, there was something about the situation that didn’t feel right.
My vehicle was the only one in the parking lot, so I checked the nearby laundromat for even the slightest indication that the parents were nearby, but all I found were curious gazes and fingers pointing toward my direction.
So, I started following the child to see if there was someone waiting for him just around the corner of our building. It wasn’t until I saw that no one was there besides bystanders who, like me, were following the child for the same reasons. “Is he yours?” at least three people asked me.
Just as I was assuring them that he was not my son, we all witnessed the lad fall to the ground at the intersection of Sam Houston Boulevard and Heywood Street. It was a particularly dangerous situation as traffic was heavy and the boy was very small. Luckily, there was an employee of the City of San Benito (I recognized him as a San Benito Police Department custodian named Ben) who ran to the child and picked him up and out of harm’s way.
We had all just witnessed a possible case of child endangerment and abandonment.
Once the witnesses, of which there were at least six of us, corroborated what we had all seen, not to mention asking one last time if the boy belonged to any of us, we then proceeded to inform the authorities.
Sure, I felt a little bad knowing that somewhere (I hoped) his parents were looking for him, yet there we were calling the cops. I didn’t let those thoughts bother me for too long, though, since the child could have ended up seriously injured or worse. If it wasn’t for Ben, who knows what could have happened to the little tyke.
It actually wasn’t until after I gave my statement to police that the child’s mother and another person, who appeared to be his grandmother, arrived breathless and horrified. And I’ll be honest. I scanned their facial expressions, emotions, body language and demeanor for any hint of genuine relief. What I found was a mother frightened and in tears, and though I sympathized with her (I still do) I also observed that she didn’t hug her child. In fact, the mother appeared to have paid a bit more attention to the police officer.
I’m doing my best not to judge her, especially since I’m not a parent and cannot even fathom the responsibility of having a child. For all I know, the family could have been playing tag outside and the boy could have simply outran his mother, outmaneuvered her or planned to play a little trick on her by running out the house and hiding. It was three blocks away, granted, but I’m doing my best to give the benefit of the doubt.
In these situations, it’s impossible to know with certainty whether a child is getting the proper attention he or she needs. It’d also be unfair of me to assume that the mother of the boy is a bad parent as a result of this one incident, but I also can’t ignore the fact that it happened. I can only hope that this will serve as a wakeup call to the parents; after all, I’d hate to be faced with the unfortunate task of publishing a news story about any future incidents involving the child.
Editor’s Note: Child Protective Services was informed of the incident and is expected to conduct an investigation.