Everyday heroes reunited with man whose life they helped save

WASHINGTON — Fast action from ordinary people can accomplish remarkable things.

Poll workers, voters and first responders were honored by D.C. leaders and the American Red Cross on Thursday for helping save a life on Election Day in November when a man had a heart attack at a polling location in Northwest.

“I don’t know where the strength, the courage came from,” Carmella Gonzalez told WTOP after the ceremony.

DC Fire and EMS Cardiac Arrest Save Coin. (WTOP/Kristi King)
DC Fire and EMS Cardiac Arrest Save Coin. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
DC Fire and EMS Cardiac Arrest Save Coin, flip side. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
Carmella Gonzalez is recognized for administering CPR to a man suffering a heart attack on Election Day. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Carmella Gonzalez is recognized for administering CPR to a man suffering a heart attack on Election Day. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
Charles Gordon with Carmella Gonzalez, who helped save his life at a polling station in Northwest back in November. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
Charles Gordon is pictured with DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, DC Fire and EMS Medical Director Dr. Robert Holman, citizen first responders and fire department professionals. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
Linda Mathes, the Chief Executive Officer of the American Red Cross in the National Capital Region, addresses the honorees. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Linda Mathes, the Chief Executive Officer of the American Red Cross in the National Capital Region, addresses the honorees. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser addresses the honorees. (WTOP/Kristi King)
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser addresses the honorees. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
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DC Fire and EMS Cardiac Arrest Save Coin. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Carmella Gonzalez is recognized for administering CPR to a man suffering a heart attack on Election Day. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Linda Mathes, the Chief Executive Officer of the American Red Cross in the National Capital Region, addresses the honorees. (WTOP/Kristi King)
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser addresses the honorees. (WTOP/Kristi King)

Gonzalez said she knew what to do when Charles Gordon collapsed at her feet because she recently renewed CPR certification through an event sponsored by the local Rho Mu Omega Chapter of her sorority, AKA.
“Thank you very much,” Gordon told Gonzalez who replied, “You’re so welcome.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser presented everyone who helped that day with ‘Cardiac Arrest Save Coins,’ while touting the importance of learning CPR. The American Red Cross presented certificates for Extraordinary Personal Action to the citizen first responders.

The reunion of Gordon and Gonzalez took place at the polling place they share, Barnard Elementary School in Northwest, where coincidentally, Gordon spent years as a custodian.

“I’m blessed to be here — and in this building where everybody knew me,” Gordon said with a broad smile.

Gonzalez’s infant and mother were at the polls that day and joined her at the ceremony. Gonzalez told Gordon that he and her baby are the best two things to happen to her this year. She also said she is proud to accomplish something so important that she had been trained to do. Her mom agrees.

“I was kind of stunned, because I saw the man in the shadow of my eye when he fell at my feet,” Gonzalez’s mom, Carmanleta Gonzalez said. “She went to bend down and I said, ‘give me the baby.’ And then she automatically went into motion. I was like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God’, while holding my grandson.”

Carmanleta Gonzalez said her daughter has been a caregiver since an early age.

“It makes me remember when she was little, when she was tiny,” Gonzalez said. “When she was in day care, she always wanted an extra tissue and band-aide … I used to ask her why and she said, ‘for someone’s boo-boos.'”


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