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When Elisa Belen Saenz saw a car bearing down on her brother she pushed him to safety

June 16, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — A big sister is usually in deep trouble when she cheerfully admits pushing her brother to the ground, but not Elisa Belen Saenz — she's a hero.

Elisa, a sixth-grader at Rockwood Elementary School, saved her brother's life recently by pushing him out of the way of an oncoming car as the two were crossing Imperial Avenue at the Seventh Street crosswalk.

Elisa, 11, whose birthday is on July 4, was honored by the Calexico Police Department for her heroism at a ceremony Thursday in front of a large number of her classmates assembled in her honor on Rockwood's grass field in front of the classrooms.


Calexico police officers presented Elisa with a plaque almost as big as she is, a $100 gift certificate from Wal-Mart and a portable CD player donated by Toys R Us. Elisa seemed awestruck by the attention and acclaim.

While the police officers told the story of what happened on June 5, Elisa looked down at the grass with her brother Francisco, a 5-year-old preschooler, happily cavorting at her side.

According to William Gonzalez, the officer who filed the report on the incident, Elisa and Francisco were crossing Imperial Avenue at the Seventh Street crosswalk when Elisa spied a large four-door sedan bearing down on her brother.

With barely an eyelash to spare, Elisa shoved Francisco out of danger, sending him sprawling to the ground. The sedan clipped Elisa and spun her around.

Francisco's nose was bloody after his fall and Elisa suffered cuts and bruises from the collision with the sedan, according to Gonzalez.

When he arrived, Gonzalez saw Elisa and Francisco sitting on the curb as they were treated by paramedics.

After Francisco was treated on site, Elisa was transported to El Centro Regional Medical Center, where she received treatment for her cuts and bruises. Most of those abrasions have healed but she is still sporting a bandage on her right arm that covers a nasty little divot.

During the awards ceremony, Gonzalez told the Rockwood students Elisa did the right thing when she saved her brother.

He asked the kids if they would do the same. They yelled "yes" in unison.

"When she saw that car, Belen (as she is called) thought, ‘I'm not going to let my brother get hurt today.'"

She was right.

Gonzalez called her a "hero, a really good person."

Elisa didn't really see what all the commotion was about. She said it wasn't like a TV show where the hero leaps to save a potential victim in slow motion as canned music swells in the background.

"I just pushed him down," she said and shrugged humbly.

Gonzalez said the driver of the sedan was not charged with a crime and he wasn't speeding.

Elisa's guardian, her grandmother Ana Reyes Saenz, said she heard the ambulance that responded to the accident and she got a "strange feeling" that something bad had happened to her grandchildren.

That feeling was validated when she left her nearby home and made her way around the corner to where her grandchildren were.

In the weeks after the incident, Francisco is a little "wobbly" according to grandma Reyes and Elisa is nervous sometimes but all in all they're both doing fine.

Asked how she felt about all the attention paid to her granddaughter, Reyes said it was "marvelous."

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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