At the top of the little hill in Chester, in a small church, the best of America lay in a casket. Inside the casket was a boy named La’Darious Wylie who did not talk about courage, but pushed his sister out of the way of a car and died because of it.
“He was a hero,” said 10-year-old Christopher Johnson. “La’Darious saved his sister.”
Christopher said he heard La’Darious pushed his sister out of the road before she could be hit by a car. The car hit La’Darious instead.
Christopher Johnson’s tiny voice trembled and he said, “La’Darious was my best friend. And now he is gone.”
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La’Darious’ family members say he pushed his younger sister, Sha’Vonta, 7, out of the way the morning of Oct. 27 when both were waiting for the school bus. A car smashed into La’Darious, and the next day he died. But before he died, his mother agreed that his organs would be donated so that other children might live.
That was the heroism of this funeral at Browns Chapel AME Zion Church on Thursday afternoon. No politicians, no promises. The courage to act was its own stage, and forever LaDarious Wylie will be the only star.
The church was so full, people had to stand outside to try to listen to the greatness of a child.
The six brothers and sisters of La’Darious came to the funeral wearing white T-shirts emblazoned with La’Darious’ picture. His sister he saved, was right in the front going up the steps as all held hands.
The kids talked about how La’Darious loved to play sports, and how he loved school, and how he loved to dance. Sha’Vonta takes dance classes, ballet and tap and jazz, twice a week in Rock Hill. She will continue to dance and dream because her brother lunged and pushed her to safety.
A regiment of little kids from Chester Park Elementary School, where La’Darious was a fifth-grader, also came to the funeral wearing the white T-shirts with La’Darious’ picture. The kids talked of the courage of their classmate in saving his sister.
“That was so brave,” said Christina Johnson, 12. “La’Darious was a great person. I am so proud of him.”
Classmate Shydem Malik McCullough, 10, spoke about his friend doing a great deed when there was no time to think or decide.
“He showed good citizenship in helping his sister and getting her out of harm’s way,” Shydem said.
La’Darious was a mainstay on the fields and courts of Chester’s Brooklyn Park, down the street from where he died. Michael Halsey of the Joshua Lodge civic group in Chester said he has organized dozens of people who plan to rally at Monday’s Chester City Council meeting to have Chester’s Brooklyn Park named for La’Darious.
“This young man is a real-life hero,” Halsey said. “He saved his sister before himself. La’Darious shows the best of all of us, and he should be honored.”
La’Darious’ heroism in saving his sister, first reported Tuesday in The Herald has spread across the country. A person in Kansas wants to nominate him for a posthumous Carnegie Hero award. The awards are given out across America for selfless acts of courage.
The driver of the car, Michelle Johnson, 57, was charged Oct. 30 – two days after the incident – with felony hit and run resulting in death after failing to stop, render aid, or call police. She was later released after posting a $25,000 bond.
La’Darious Wylie did not flee. He did not run away.
He showed what it is to be a leader with courage – at age 11.
There were no TV satellite trucks at the funeral or burial of the tiny coffin, but maybe there should have been.
There were no speeches about the courage it will take to want to lead America at that little church – but maybe there should have been.
Because in the words of his best friend, Christopher Johnson, La’Darious Wylie saved his sister before himself, “because La’Darious is a hero.”
Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065