Milwaukee bus driver Irena Ivic was transporting passengers on her usual route during a shift in late December, when something seriously unexpected caught her eye. And it turns out that her quick thinking may have just saved a child's life. The Milwaukee County Transit System recently shared a video of this bus driver rescuing a barefoot toddler, as CNN reported Friday, and as a result, Ivic is now being rightly hailed as a hero.
Milwaukee County Transit System spokesman Matt Sliker explained that Ivic had been driving down a freeway overpass, when she noticed a 19-month-old child, dressed only in a red onesie, walking down the sidewalk. Realizing the little girl could easily step out into traffic at any moment (or at least be seriously affected by the freezing cold temperature), Ivic quickly stopped the bus and ran out to grab her before she reached the intersection.
After a passenger kindly offered up her coat, Ivic snuggled with the little girl to warm her up and comfort her, according to CBS Miami, and though she said the girl was at first startled and upset to be picked up by a stranger, the video shows that she actually dozed off in Ivic's arms as they waited for police to arrive and intervene.
On Thursday, the Milwaukee County Transit System recognized Ivic's actions by awarding her with an MCTS Excellence Award, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, but for Ivic at least, jumping in to help was a no-brainer. According to CBS Miami, she told reporters that if the same situation were to happen again, she would "of course" try to assist however she could. But Ivic also had a message she wanted to share for the passenger who offered up her jacket: she said, "If she can hear me, I want to tell her 'thank you so much, again.'"
As for the child? Officials said she went missing in the care of her mother, whom police believe may have been having "a mental health crisis," according to CNN. Sliker indicated that "authorities eventually reunited the baby with its father."
What might perhaps be most notable about this story though? The Milwaukee County Transit System said in a statement that, actually, the incident involving Ivic is far from being an anomaly. In fact Ivic's actions now mark the ninth time a lost or missing child has been found by a MCTS driver, according to CNN, meaning that other bus drivers, like MCTS Driver Jeannie Mitchell, likely know exactly how she feels.
According to the MCTS website, Mitchell was similarly driving her own usual route in October 2016 when she spotted two young children walking alone down the street. In a video from the day, Mitchell could be seen stopping the bus to ask the kids if they were OK, and if they knew where they were headed. It soon became clear to her that the children: a 5-year-old and a 1-year-old — were actually lost, having walked away from their babysitter. When Mitchell came upon them, it turned out they'd been attempting to find their way to a relative's house, but couldn't remember the way.
Mitchell similarly received an MCTS Excellence award for her effort, but it turns out that isn't the only time she's gone above and beyond to help. In March 2017, Mitchell was training a new bus driver when she spotted a man hunched over the steering wheel in his stalled car, according to WISN 12 News. The man had reportedly suffered from a drug overdose and was "unconscious and barely breathing," but Mitchell called for help in time, and paramedics were able to revive him.
As hard as it is to think about young children wandering down the street alone, it's so much worse to consider what could have happened had people like Ivic and Mitchell not been there and paying such close attention to their surroundings. Thankfully in these situations the story had a happy ending for everyone involved, and it's a pretty powerful reminder of what can happen when strangers look out for one another.
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