Child hero needs saviour
Jodi-Ann Gilpin, Gleaner Writer
A stunning act of bravery displayed by 11-year-old Toni-Ann Miller has landed her a Badge of Honour for Gallantry, which she will receive at the National Honours and Awards Ceremony, come October.
On her way home from school on the afternoon of May 15, 2013, Miller, along with her friends in the community of Mount Hermon, St Catherine, noticed thick black smoke coming through the windows of a nearby house. They also heard a child crying inside. Without a moment's hesitation, and with no thought of her personal safety, Miller ran into the house and pulled the child to safety.
In an interview with The Gleaner yesterday, Miller said she, at that point, realised that her task was not done.
"When I took the boy outside, he told me that his brother was sleeping inside. So I ran inside again and saw the bed burning and grabbed him and carried him outside," she said.
Due to her quick thinking, the older of the two brothers age six, escaped unhurt. The younger boy, age five, sustained minor burns to one of his arms.
As scary a situation as that would have been for an 11-year-old, Miller, who attends Good Hope Primary School in St Catherine, said she would do it all over again. And she's quick to shrug off praise. "I don't see it as a moment to celebrate, really. I just want to be in a position to offer any assistance I can whenever somebody needs help," she said.
"Somehow, I wasn't scared when I saw the fire. I saw the little boy at the gate and he was crying that his little brother was sleeping in the bed and I was saying to myself that I had to save him," she recalled.
Miller's story is remarkable. But it isn't all rosy for the little girl with the big heart. Judean Cunningham, who lives in Sharper's Lane, St Catherine, is doing her best to be Miller's hero. But it hasn't been easy.
"Her mother is not really in a position to care for her, so I took it on myself to see if I could assist her and I have been doing nothing but my best," said Cunningham. "But with two weeks left to the start of the school year, Toni-Ann does not even have a pencil because I don't know where the money is coming from," said the mother of four.
Miller is supposed to be sitting the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) next academic year, but with strained finances, her caregiver wonders if the little hero's fate will prove as fortunate as the brothers she saved from certain death.
"I am depending on the grace of God to see me through because she has a lot of potential. She does nothing but her best and always looks out for others, so I am willing to do my best for her as well," said Cunningham.