Altruistic Alvarez Rushes to the Rescue
Nov. 28, 2012
CHICAGO – Herald Alvarez was coming around the turn of his cross country training run on a rain-soaked late October afternoon in Jackson Park when he came to a sudden halt.
A car had hydroplaned out of control near the intersection of 60th Street and South Cornell Avenue and crashed into a light pole.
A moment like this reveals the true nature and character of a person and defines in no uncertain terms what it means to be heroic.
Without thinking, Alvarez raced across four lanes of traffic on Cornell, holding up his hand to slow cars or dodge between them. He kept repeating “I’m sorry” to the drivers.
You’ve watched this scene play out countless times at the movie theatre, only this time the guy making the reckless dash was no Hollywood stuntman.
“I went straight to the driver’s side,” said Alvarez, a junior from suburban Franklin Park. “The car door was squished all the way in against the pole. I tried pulling it open but it wouldn’t budge. I heard screaming inside.”
As someone whose life has mostly been defined by how well he can use his legs, Alvarez’s heart went out to the accident victim.
“Seeing the driver with his legs all jammed up where he couldn’t move them---I use my legs for everything and couldn’t imagine being like that,” Alvarez said. “I felt so bad for that man.
“I ran over to the passenger side and saw a lady inside lying across the front seat. She couldn’t open the door. It took me a couple of minutes to force the door open. I grabbed her leg and arm and helped her out of the car.
“She was screaming and crying. The driver was smashed into the door. There was blood everywhere on their heads, fingers, and arms. It was very intense.”
In the midst of the madness, this former lifeguard who has saved a number of children from possible drowning kept his cool.
“There was a cell phone on the floor of the car and I asked her if I could use it,” Alvarez said. “I wiped the blood off on the grass, called 911 and explained what happened. The fire department was the first one to arrive.
“There were two fire department ambulances, three fire trucks and two police cars. I walked away and headed back to the training course.”
DePaul assistant cross country coach Andrew Craycraft had been monitoring the workout and wondered why one of his top runners wasn’t with the pack.
“We were in the middle of our training interval when I heard a huge bang,” Craycraft said. “I didn’t see Herald as the guys ran past me, and he is usually near the front. I started running towards that loud noise and I saw him coming towards me.”
Alvarez figured he was about to get scolded by his coach for dogging it.
“‘Sorry coach, I had to stop and help them,” Alvarez said. “I couldn’t help myself.”
Craycraft looked over at the accident scene and then said to Alvarez: “There’s no reason to be sorry. You did the right thing. You are a human being first.”
A visibly shaken Alvarez finished the run.
“In my head, I kept reliving the moment,” he said. “The rest of the day, I kept picturing the guy and how I couldn’t get him out. It was really frustrating. I could envision his hip and leg jammed into the door. He kept screaming that he couldn’t get out. I just felt so helpless, and that’s the worst feeling.
“I’m very thankful I was able to react in the way I did. When I ran through the traffic, I didn’t care if I got hit. I had to get over there to help them.”
Both accident victims were rushed to a nearby hospital, treated and released.
“I’m so glad that they’re okay,” Alvarez said. “It’s the only thing that matters. This whole time, I’ve been wondering what happened to them. Now I can feel some relief.”
Miguel Mercado married Herald’s mom Ivelisse when Herald was one year old, and Alvarez has only known his stepdad’s compassionate, Vincentian view of the world.
As a peer counselor his junior year at West Leyden High School, Alvarez discovered that a student he had been counseling had run away with the intention of committing suicide. He notified police and helped them get the search underway.
He was told the next day the student had been found and was in rehabilitation.
“My high school coach once told me I wouldn’t reach my potential as an athlete until I started caring more about myself,” Alvarez said. “But this is how I was raised by my family. My stepdad who has been my dad since I was one taught me to always put other people ahead of myself. He is my role model.
“At that accident, he would have been right there with me.”
Craycraft could not have been any prouder of his distance runner.
“Herald is such a good guy---it’s not surprising he would do something like this,” Craycraft said. “You won’t find a lot of people his age living their lives with such a moral conscience-ness.
“What he did is a great reflection on Herald, our program and DePaul athletics.”