HOMEWOOD, Ala. (WIAT) – I’ll be honest.  I had been on vacation for the early part of the week — and I had not been as diligent as normal in tracking down my Hidden Hero.  On Wednesday, I was in hot pursuit of three, excellent nominees.  Nothing was working out.  I went to a nearby store to grab a coffee and shop around for my lunch break, hoping for a call back when the story appeared right in front of me.

This story is all about being at the right place at the right time. 

There was a crowd of people gathered around the escalator at the store.  My vision was obscured, but I could see that someone was on the ground.  There was blood on the escalator.  I stayed back–but watched as two women in everyday clothing tended to an elderly woman who had hit her head, leg, and arm.  Store employees also provided assistance as they waited for paramedics. 

The two women talked with two other women who stood nearby with folded arms and worried expressions.  They were relatives of the woman who had fallen.  I was later told that she had missed a step on the escalator and had lost her balance. 

The strangers who had been tending to the elderly woman spoke to the relatives.  When paramedics arrived, they stepped back, and the relatives thanked them for everything that they had done.

I introduced myself to the family–and also to the two women who would become this week’s Hidden Heroes: Dr. Mary Jones and Joanna Gomez. 

Dr. Jones was working in the cafe that day.  She is a trained pediatrician, but she does consultations over the computer.  Gomez was in town visiting her daughter who is in school at UAB.  She’s a traveling nurse who works (currently) in Atlanta.  They were both in the store, minding their own business, when they heard someone screaming for help.  They didn’t hesitate. 

“I think that’s just naturally what we all do,” said Jones.  “We want to comfort somebody that’s hurting, that’s scared.  So yeah, I’m a physician, but I think even if I wasn’t, you would do the exact same thing.”

Gomez agreed,  “It’s just an added bonus that we have some skills that help with assessing.  We know things like not to move someone who has fallen or who is injured and could reassure her.  I think for the woman that was injured, that just helps her to relax.”

To me – Jones and Gomez are the epitome of Hidden Heroes.  They went from being strangers, shopping around a store during some down time–to someone’s hero.  Offering care and comfort to multiple people during a scary time.  And despite their insistence that anyone would do the same thing–it’s a certain type of person who devotes their life to the long hours and study and work–to care for someone else. 

Jones mentioned that she was also in the store because she was in a chat about her mission trips to Africa and the subsequent fashion-forward ethical company that sprung from them.  I’m hoping to follow up with Mary about her (and her husband Jeff’s) start-up, Maasai Chic.  Here’s a little of what her website has to say about the project: “My dream is to empower our artisans, to train them on marketable skills and support them in owning their own sustainable businesses someday. I would like to expand to have business classes and structured training programs where our own artisans train others, eventually working their way out of their own jobs and starting their own grassroots companies. I also have a dream to employ and empower women right here in my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, creating employment that reaches our neighbors right here at home.”

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