Until Fathers Day, a hot June 18 afternoon at a Rock Hill crash scene, Blanca “Karina” Barajas and Travis Taylor were strangers. They met trying to ward off death.
Death came anyway. And it looms over them still.
But the two now have a bond about about life that both say will last forever.
“I’ve been told by people that there will always be a special relationship, a bond, between people who go through something like this,” said Taylor, 38, a husband and father of three. “I believe it.”
Barajas, 18, and the mother of a soon-to-be 1-year-old daughter, said Taylor has been checking on her and her family, even trying to help her find another job in her field.
“He’s been asking if I am OK, checking on me; he’s been there for me,” Barajas said. “That’s called friendship.”
The two met face to face late this week for the first time, after sharing social media messages and more. They have a newfound friendship and caring for another person after doing what people are supposed to do: help others.
They met again at Rock Hill’s Krispy Kreme doughnut store, not a half mile from where they met kneeling in the street trying to save a stranger.
At the crash June 18 involving a motorcycle and a vehicle, Barajas rushed across busy Cherry Road from a restaurant where she was eating with her family. She started CPR on the motorcyclist lying in the street. Taylor, in a vehicle with his family near the crash, called 911 and then ran to help Barajas.
Barajas did CPR breaths and chest compressions until Taylor was able to free himself from a call to emergency dispatchers.
Taylor then took over the chest compressions. They worked together. There was blood, but there was no time to consider what it meant and the potential health dangers without personal protective equipment.
All that mattered was a man who needed them and their training. Both have CPR training and certifications.
The man in the crash, Robert Armstrong of Columbia, did not survive after emergency officials arrived and took over the attempt to save his life.
Each finds that description difficult. Taylor has received cards of thanks from strangers, accolades from church members, more.
“I am uncomfortable with it, to say the least. We just came together for the common good of a person,” Taylor said. “I can sleep at night, knowing we did all we could do. We didn’t stand there.”
Barajas still has anxiety that she was not able to save Armstrong.
“I still feel sad that maybe I didn’t do enough, but so many people have sent me private messages saying they were proud of me and we did what we could do,” Barajas said. “They have used the word hero, but I think I was just being a good person.”
Taylor posted on Facebook that maybe what he and what Barajas, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, did to try and help an injured man can show that all of us in the world and in life are in it together.
Taylor went to the Rock Hill visitation for Armstrong and sat by himself in the quiet room. He didn’t know anyone. A woman came up and asked if he knew Armstrong.
“I told her I knew him the last moments of his life,” Taylor said. “I just had to be there. I wanted people who loved him to know that Karina and I did what we could for him. I wanted them to know that we cared about him. That we tried.”
Many who came to that vistation thanked Taylor for what he did. They asked him to thank Karina Barajas, too.
So under the hot doughnut sign at Krispy Kreme this week, he did.
The two sat together in a booth and talked. Both are parents and had worked a full day, Barajas at a restaurant near the crash site, and Taylor at Fort Mill tool plant.
But they wanted first to see each other and say some things that needed to be said to and about each other. Things that remind all of us about what it means to be a human being when another human being needs help.
They shook hands, and told each other to be safe and careful. They promised to keep in touch.
That’s what friends do.