Friday, February 15, 2008

Unsung hero protects our school kids

A car begins to turn right from Walnut onto Nevin Street as a child is traversing the crosswalk.

"Stop," she warns, raising her hand.

The driver continues to inch forward and begins making the turn, apparently confident that he will pass behind the boy.

"Stop! Hold it!" she screams, finally commanding the driver's respect.

Her name is Elsa Camacho and she stands in the middle of that busy intersection at Reynolds Middle School from 7am - 8 am every weekday morning.

It's a thankless job. She's been a crossing guard since 1972, starting out in New York City and moving to Lancaster in 1984.

Her motions are graceful and precise. She never misses a beat and she rarely gets to speak.

A NewsLanc reporter approached her to hear her story, Friday morning.

"I have a headache!" she yells from her post, only part-jokingly.

In the course of directing traffic, she frequently encounters irritable motorists.

"I got spit at, flipped at, I got a car thrown at me that I had to jump out of the way," she shared. Those problems are isolated and occured more frequently when she was working in the Bronx, but they still happen from time to time - even in Lancaster.

"It's not an easy job," Camacho admits.

But she is careful to point out that those instances are the exception rather than the rule.

"I love the respect that the majority - that 99% - of the people give me."

About her motivation, she adds, "I like that the kids are getting there safe."

She's retired now and does this as a part-time job.

Shortly before 8 am, she excuses herself with a sense of urgency, hops in her car and heads to her next post - the corner of Queen & Church adjacent Carter & MacRae Elementary.

"She's very reliable," says George Aldae, an attendance officer at Reynolds School.

"She seems to know the employees," he continues.

"She's there no matter what the weather."