Until Sunday, Rock Hill teen Blanca Karina Barajas and York father Travis Taylor had never met. But they came together on Father’s Day, in the middle of the street. In blood and chaos.
Because a third stranger needed help.
A man on a motorcycle was in a crash off busy Cherry Road in Rock Hill. Both Barajas and Taylor had been trained in CPR. Neither hesitated.
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Barajas, 18, a certified nursing assistant studying at York Technical College to be a registered nurse – and a mother of a daughter – was with her family at the Cook-Out restaurant on Cherry Road.
Across the street, a truck and the motorcycle collided around 4 p.m. Sunday. The motorcycle rider was on the street.
People started to gather around the crash site. Barajas has CPR training and basic skills, but the crash was real life. She had never before used CPR on a person.
Her younger sister, Carolina Barajas, 15, with another younger sister and her mother, all urged Blanca Barajas, who is called Karina from her middle name, to rush to the scene and help.
Barajas’ mother, an immigrant from Mexico for 20 years, urged in Spanish. She came to make a better life for her kids, and said that life includes helping others.
So Karina Barajas ran across the street to tend to the man on the ground. She removed the dentures from his mouth.
“I checked his pulse, and he wasn’t breathing,” Barajas said.
Barajas said she had self-doubt, and she was unsure whether her actions would make a difference. She was emotional and nervous.
“I said, ‘I can’t do it,’ but my family told me to keep going, and then others were standing around, and nothing was being done, and I just had to help,” Barajas said.
Barajas started chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. She knelt in the middle of a busy street, trying to save a life.
“I could feel his ribs,” Barajas said. “But I had to keep going.”
Then she breathed into the stranger on the ground. There was blood, and fear, but she did not stop.
A man rushed up to her from a vehicle that was stuck in traffic. It was Travis Taylor, who with his wife and three kids had just left a Father’s Day meal at the Japanese restaurant around the corner.
The wreck happened near their vehicle, and Taylor, a tool designer from York, called 911.
“The crowd was getting chaotic, and I was on the phone with the dispatch,” Taylor said. “I wanted to get out and help.”
Taylor has CPR training from his job, and from his years as a Boy Scout. He finished telling emregency officials where the wreck was, and asked the woman kneeling in the street if he could help with the CPR.
“Everybody was watching, and I was thinking that the only chance this man has is us,” Taylor said.
The two worked over the crash victim in tandem until emergency medical technicians arrived and took over. Then the two stood in the blazing heat in the road with a man on it.
“I gave that young girl a hug right then,” Taylor said.
They didn’t even exchange names.
What they had exchanged was love for their fellow man.
Police interviewed both Barajas and Taylor to find out what happened.
Paul Myers, a spokesman for the Rock Hill Police Department, confirmed that people on the scene had assisted the victim before medical personnel arrived.
A motorcycle helmet was found nearby, Myers said, but it was unclear if the motorcycle rider had been wearing it properly at the time of the crash.
No charges have been filed in the crash, Myers said, but the investigation is continuing.
Barajas saw a white sheet pulled over the man she and Taylor had tried to save. Police said he died.
Barajas had her own panic attack then, she said, and had to be checked out. She had to have some precautionary tests done because of blood contact.
“I just wanted to help someone,” Barajas said. “That’s all that mattered.”
Taylor said Monday that he, too, only wanted to help someone in need.
Only later did he realize that a Latina woman and a white man had tried to help a black man stay alive.
“It gives me hope for our society, for all of us,” Taylor said.
He cried as he recounted trying to save the life of a man he had never met.
The operator of the motorcycle was identified Monday as Robert Armstrong of Columbia. He was 55 years old.
Barajas, crying in the living room of her home Monday, said this of that person in the road: “A human being needed me. And that man came and helped, too. He was a person.”