It was the moment when Sparks Middle School student Angelo Ferro began frantically smacking the back of classmate DJ Miller who, through the blurred security tape, had his hands clutched around his throat. By the time a counselor approached the scene Ferro had dislodged the object, certifying himself as a hero.
“No, I never learned (the heimlich). It was just a reaction,” Ferro said Thursday morning. “He was trying to cough it up and he was holding his throat and tapping me on the shoulder, and it didn’t look like he was playing around.”
Miller said eating his hamburger too fast to get to a schoolyard basketball game caused his choking. He said the number one lesson he learned was “don’t rush to get to a basketball game.”
“I was scared,” Miller said. “I started swallowing at first and then when I realized it wouldn’t go down anymore I tried to take a drink of water and it just sat on top of the hamburger, so that is when I started panicking.”
The video footage was striking for Sparks Middle School Principal Kevin Carroll who said Thursday he didn’t initially think to look at the video, but he knew a congratulations was in order for Ferro.
“It brought a tear to my eye and gave me chills,” Carroll said of his first viewing of the video. “It was pretty amazing. Supposedly he hasn’t been taught, but you watch the video and he looks like a pro. I think in those situations your instinct and adrenaline kicks in and he saw his friend was choking so he had to save him.”
Ferro’s father, Ray, did not expect a pleasant phone conversation when a call came from Sparks Middle, but upon hearing of his son’s heroics, he couldn’t help but feel proud that his son stepped up in the clutch.
“I was kind of in shock,” Ray said. “I have had the training...I never have actually had to do it so I was shocked when I heard he had to do it on someone. I was impressed on how he had fast actions on doing that and knowing to do it. Most kids, and even adults, won’t do it.
“You really can’t knock it. You see him coming over the arms which is probably not the correct way to do it but it obviously was effective.”
Ray said the news of Angelo’s heroism spread through the family vine quickly knowing that Angelo’s aunt had done the same thing to his grandmother a few years ago. Ray said the lesson his son learned is one that will follow him for the rest of his life.
“I think my message to him will be that you never know what can happen,” Ray said. “This could happen when you are walking down the street. He understands that what he did was incredible and hopefully he never has to do it again, but he will know how to see it and how to react.”
Carroll, on the other hand, said he was becoming accustomed to seeing this type of selflessness from his students. Just a few weeks prior, two girls broke up an attack on a student from Jerry Whitehead Elementary School and were able to help the police by filling out reports. “Proud” was the lone word he used to describe the past weeks with his students.
“I am so proud of our students,” Carroll said. “We had another incident on Monday where we had a student riding his bike who fell off and cracked his head open. Another student who literally took the shirt off her back to press against his forehead.
“We are just so proud of our kids and proud to see them get the attention and award them for it. I think it starts at the home and then they come to school and we are instilling those values for them as well. They are good kids and they want to do the right thing.”
Miller and Angelo agreed they will likely become much better friends now that the fanfare has ended. Angelo accepted the award of not wearing his school uniform for the remaining weeks of school, and added that it is an experience he plans to pass on to others in the future.