For 50 years, Cora Reed has been helping kids get to school safely every morning as a crossing guard in Alexandria, Virginia.
It’s a job that’s gotten harder, mostly because of the increase in traffic, but also because she seems to have moved to trickier and trickier intersections as the years have gone on. On Wednesday, she was honored at Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy, where she was named one of Virginia’s outstanding crossing guards on Crossing Guard Appreciation Day in the commonwealth.
Reed heard the words “thank you” a lot: from parents on the PTA, from other school and city leaders who showed up at a ceremony. But also from parents who were walking their kids to school who stopped in the intersection to express their appreciation. Eventually, she was stopping traffic with her hands full of cards given to her by students.
“Children sense good people,” said Patricia Zissios, the principal at Lyles-Crouch. “If a dog or a child goes up to you, you’re good. They have this innate sense or instinct that a person is not going to hurt them. Children love her. They know that she’s there for them.”
Reed is soft-spoken by nature, but Zissios said that hasn’t stopped her from speaking out.
In fact, it’s because she’s so soft-spoken that her voice carries so much weight when she does speak.
“Her suggestions to get these speed bumps in front of the school, her suggestions for us to put up the cones to be able to protect the kids for when we have dropoff — I really appreciate her support; I appreciate her dedication; I just appreciate her,” Zissios said.
While Reed said she’s never had any close calls like the incident from Maryland that went viral last week, she admitted impatient drivers have her more concerned.
“I’ve had people sometimes want to disobey you when you’re out there,” said Reed. “You don’t have but two hands. You have them up there try to sneak behind you, make a turn, sometimes just go through when you have your hand up. So it’s a challenge.”
During the ceremony, Zissios told Reed, “You are a hero to me.”
When it was Reed’s turn, her words were brief and humble.
“Fifty years is a long time; you wouldn’t realize it,” she said. “Just growing with the kids, trying to stay young with them, takes energy. So I try to be dedicated.”
“Thank you all, again, for just supporting me,” she added, saying she “didn’t realize I had so much support. So it makes a big difference in the job to know that you’re appreciated. Now I’ll get out there and work even harder.”
Then she walked away from the podium, but not before getting even more applause.