Ariana Evans clearly couldn’t figure out what the fuss was all about. All she’d done was push a button on the dashboard of her mother’s car and told the lady who answered that her mom needed help.
And now she was getting a fancy piece of paper that certified her as a hero, and was flying to New York and was sitting on a couch in the TODAY studio, where a friendly man named Mr. Al Roker was asking her all these questions about what she’d done.
But that’s how it is when you’re 4 years old. You don’t think about consequences, you just do things that you think need to be done. And if that involves pushing the OnStar button in the car and summoning help for your unconscious mother, that’s just how it is.
“My mom was trying to push it, and then she passed out. And then I pushed it,” was all the explaining Ariana felt she needed to do when Roker asked her what she’d done.
It all happened on Feb. 21, near the family’s home in Greeley, Colo.
But the story is just getting out now that the Greeley Police Department has honored Ariana with a Citizen’s Certificate of Merit and — far more important to the little girl — a Chuck E. Cheese gift certificate.
Just two days before Ariana saved her mother, Watkins, a single mother of two, had purchased a new car equipped with the OnStar communications system. Ariana had sat in the showroom watching as the salesman demonstrated how the system is activated by a button on the dashboard, but her mother never discussed it with her.
Watkins, 25, was battling an ear infection when she picked up Ariana and her 2-year-old son, Alex, from their grandparents’ home, where they stayed while Watkins was at work. As she was driving home, she started to feel dizzy and felt herself losing consciousness.
Somehow, she managed to get the car off the road and into a parking lot, although she has no recollection of stopping it.
“The last thing I remember, the car was moving,” she told Roker. “I still have no idea to this day how the car got into the parking lot.”
Ariana was in a child safety seat in the back with her brother, watching her mother attempt to push the OnStar button. When she saw her mother pass out, she managed to unbuckle the top part of the five-point seat harness, then wriggle out of the straps and climb into the front seat, where she pushed the button.
The woman who answered for OnStar at first couldn’t hear Ariana and almost broke the connection. But Ariana said, “Don’t hang up,” and, talking louder, said, “Mommy needs help.”
It played out just like the OnStar commercials that feature similar actual calls from motorists. The operator told Ariana that help would arrive shortly. Following directions from the operator, Ariana turned the car’s lights on to make it easier for police to find. While they were waiting, Ariana told her brother not to worry, that help was coming. She also comforted her unconscious mother.
“[I] hugged her and keep patting her hand,” she told Roker.
Police arrived within minutes, along with EMS first-responders, who took Watkins to the hospital, where doctors discovered that her eardrum had ruptured. The infection in her ear, they concluded, had caused her to experience vertigo and then to lose consciousness.
It took a while for the police to recognize Ariana’s heroism because they were relocating and Watkins is busy working and going to school five days a week while pursuing a degree in psychology.
When Roker asked Ariana if she knew she was a hero, she shook her head no. But she was aware that she and her brother had to skip trick-or-treating Wednesday evening — she had planned to be a cowgirl — to get on a plane and fly to New York.
To make up for it, Roker handed her a jack-o’-lantern trick-or-treat bag brimming with candy and presents along with another bag for her to give to her brother.
When Ariana saw the sweet swag, she suddenly realized that all the fuss wasn’t such a bad thing after all.
Her face lit up with delight, she rocked back on the studio couch and announced to the nation: “Now we get a lot of candy for a Halloween party tonight at our house.”
Observed her mother: “Perked her right up.”