Call Daniel Harris a hero and he’ll modestly accept the compliment.
Ask everyone at Trapp Elementary School, members of the Rialto Unified School Board and mother of 10-year-old Maya Norman and they’ll all say “he’s a lifesaver.”
Harris, a custodian[restrict userlevel=”subscriber”] at Trapp Elementary, received praise during a March 12 school board meeting for coming to the aid of Maya after she began choking on popcorn chicken during lunch.
Working at Trapp for more than a year now, Harris said he was called over to the cafeteria by a noon duty after she noticed the fourth grader whaling her arms.
“She had tears streaming down her face,” Harris said about Maya.
Harris said he asked the girl to stand up and raise her arms, he then started using the Heimlich maneuver, which ultimately saved the third graders life.
“I was scared,” said a shy Maya.
Because of actions taken, Maya was able to celebrate her 10th birthday just a day before Harris’ recognition.
“He saved my life,” she said.
While humbled by the compliments and cheers from board members and especially Maya’s mother, Crystal Norman, Harris insisted he’s still “no hero.”
“When I got hired on I had to take a civil service oath and it encompases everything that took place that day,” said Harris. “It wasn’t a superhuman thing. The only reason we have “heros” is because there’s a scarcity of people doing what they’re supposed to do. It wasn’t just me, it was a team effort from (four others) working in the cafeteria–we are the people that watch after these kids–it’s our job to be guardians.”
In his 18 years of being a custodian with Rialto USD, Harris said the day he saved Maya’s life is the day he knew why he was chosen for the field.
“The dictionary describes a custodian as a person who has custody; a keeper, a guardian. The second definition is a person entrusted with guarding or maintaining property. The Latin terminology is ‘custodia’ and it means watchman,” he read from a note he copied of the definition.
“I just did my job.”[/restrict]
Yazmin Alvarez is a reporter with Inland Empire Community Newspapers. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 909-381-9898 ext. 207.