Four-year-old James Perry is alive and well today, thanks to the actions of two quick-thinking Ada Public Works employees, both of whom James’ grandmother hails as heroes.
Sometime between 1 and 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Brenda Adams, 51, said her grandson, James, managed to unlock the back door of her home in the 2000 block of East Foster Drive in Ada and then did what he does best: He ran.
“We were in the living room and he headed to the back door,.I said we weren’t going to the park until after lunch,” Adams said. “That little sucker, he got the bolt and the back door unlocked before I could get to the back door.”
For James, it was a race. He had his shoes in his hands, and he was running barefoot for the park. For Adams, it was a nightmare unfolding right before her eyes.
“When he runs like that he thinks you are chasing him, so if you’re chasing him to catch him, you better be able to outrun him,” Adams said. “This is the biggest nightmare a grandparent could ever go through, because he was running from me and there was no way — he is so fast there is no way I could catch him.”
Adams said she and James frequently visit the Chickasaw Park together, because a fence surrounds the park where James cannot run away and get loose.
James was headed for the park, totally oblivious to the danger he was running toward. That’s when, Adams said, two Ada Public Works employees turned what could have been a terrible tragedy into an unforgettable story.
Ada Public Works line maintenance workers Casey Howard, 32, and Charles Johnson, 33, happened to be passing Adams’ home in a city truck just as little James began his race. They were headed to the next stop on their list.
“I had the list in my hand, and there were 12 or 13 other places I could have been,” Johnson said. “We were where we needed to be.”
Adams said she watched as the city truck passed James, then slowed, turned around and headed back towards her grandson. Howard and Johnson both said they saw James running, then saw Adams fall as she was chasing him. The pair became concerned and turned back to help.
Adams said the fall was a ploy — she “fake fell,” hoping James would turn around and come to her aid. But James only had one thing on his little mind: The park!
Howard and Johnson slowed down, thinking Adams had caught up to Perry (at one point), but they quickly realized they needed to step in and help. They worked together to head little James off at the pass, cutting short his valiant run for the park.
Johnson, who was driving the city truck, laid on his horn, thinking the sudden loud noise would give James pause, but when that didn’t work, Howard jumped out of the truck and gave chase. Upon seeing Howard, James turned around and headed back towards his grandma.
“He was just laughing and having a good ole time,” Howard said. “If I hadn’t been as scary looking he might have kept going. (But) he saw me and ran straight back to his grandma. My heart was racing the whole time it was happening.”
It turns out, Howard jumped out just in the nick of time. James stopped running just short of being hit by a truck.
“It felt really good to see her holding his hand,” Howard said.
James, his hopes for reaching the park dashed, headed back to grandma’s house and went straight to bed.
Adams teared up Thursday as she hugged Johnson and Howard, thanking them for being in the right place at the right time and for their willingness to help a stranger.
“I didn’t think anything of it. You see something that needs to be done, and you do it,” both Johnson and Howard said as they recounted the story Thursday.
“Thank you so much I don’t know what I would have done without you guys — couldn’t have caught him, no matter how hard I tried,” Adams told both workers, who she describes as heroes for saving James from oncoming traffic.
Johnson and Howard both downplayed their role in saving James.
“I am just glad we could help,” Howard said.