When one mother’s celebration turned to terror, another mother’s lifesaving instincts kicked into action.
Richland County sheriff’s Deputy Darlene Crawford was attending a fifth-grade graduation ceremony Wednesday at South Kilbourne Elementary School, where she works as a school resource officer, when she heard cries for help.
Vera Anderson, a lifelong Columbia resident, was watching her daughter graduate when she pulled Life Savers candies out of her bag to share with her husband and 1-year-old son.
Instead of chewing the candy, her son Terrance swallowed it whole.
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“When I realized he was choking, I jumped up, and that’s when Deputy Crawford came.”
The moment seemed like an eternity, Anderson said – she panicked as she watched her son’s “eyes rolling back like he was out of breath for 20 seconds.”
Anderson said Crawford deserves the title of hero.
“Because she came out of nowhere. She was going. She was running, and she grabbed him. ... Thank God for the police officers. They are not all bad,” Anderson said, also thanking Crawford.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott credited Crawford’s swift action for saving the child’s life.
Crawford, a mother of seven and grandmother of 13, said her motherly instincts kicked in when she saw Anderson stand up “with a baby in her arms,” saying, “He’s choking. He’s choking.”
Crawford said she ran over and grabbed the child, who was gasping for air. She turned him over and hit him on his back until the candy came out of his mouth and he began to cry.
Crawford also said she was just doing her job after years of law enforcement experience.
Being a mother and being a cop is “one and the same,” she said, because both jobs require responsibility and maturity.
“It’s the gratification of this job. We catch so much negativity. We’re rarely recognized for the good things that we do. It made me feel good knowing being a grandmother that if it was my grandkid or one of my children, I would want someone to do the same thing.”
Crawford said she has carried a motto with her throughout her career: “I treat people as I want them to treat my family.”
A Richland County deputy for two years, Crawford previously worked with the Miami Police Department for 17 years on road patrols and street narcotics.
Even with that experience, Crawford said this incident was the first time she was responding to help a child. She was nervous, she said.
But Crawford’s job of looking out for Terrance is not over. The deputy has asked to be the boy’s godmother, and Anderson accepted.
“I want to be a part of his life until he reaches adulthood,” Crawford said.