Autorepairman Bryant Collins was driving down the road where he saw something small moving alongside in the grass. On one level, he knew what he was seeing. But at the same time, the sight was so unfathomable, he couldn’t quite process it.
Was that a baby crawling out onto the road?
“I didn’t even think it was a baby at first—I mean, how could it be a baby?” Collins said. But he slammed his foot down on the brakes immediately, not wasting time to process. “Thank God nobody was behind me.”
Collins had been on one of the busiest highways in the area, but it was just their luck that the road was fairly clear that day.
“I’ve been in a lot of bad situations but I’ve never seen that,” he said.
He quickly called 911—“I just found a little baby crawling in the street,” he said, alarmed.
The operator asked, “There’s a baby crawling on the bridge?”
“A baby’s on the highway!” he replied.
The baby had crawled through the woods to get there—Collins had found her 300 feet from her home.
The baby had just fell down the embankment, and was not happy about it. Collins quickly picked her up to get her off the highway, and “she just looked at me like she knew me or something.”
A bystander snapped a photo of Collins holding the baby, who was staring at his name tag like she was trying to read it.
An emergency rescue team had shown up—the baby’s father was arrested, and the baby’s mother was under investigation. Amidst the hustle and bustle, Collins sat with the baby for two hours, so she wouldn’t be left alone.
Eventually she got fussy, so he pulled out his phone, and played some gospel music for her.
“And she calmed back down,” Collins said. “I know it calms me down.”
Collins was hailed a hero, but he said what he did was nothing special. He had been down and hopeless in his life once, having been sent to prison for drug related charges. “And while I was in prison I decided I can’t come home like I came to prison,” he said. He learned that he could be in society and be good—that life was always a choice.
“Just as well as you can do bad, you can do good,” he said.
The little girl was later identified as 15-month-old Emily Pickens, and her parents Timothy and Denise said Collins saved her life.
“He’s our angel and we’re thankful to him from the bottom of our hearts,” Denise said.
The parents had been in the backyard packing aluminum cans when Emily—supposedly being watched by her 11-year-old brother—wandered off. They panicked, but couldn’t see her anywhere in the yard.
They called 911—and that was when they learned Emily had been found nearby.
“My kids are my world,” said Timothy. He was initially charged with neglect, amplified by the fact that the deputies who arrived would not let him hold Emily when he arrived. He got upset, and he pushed the deputy to try to reach his child.
“We did not neglect our children; we were with them the whole time; we just stepped outside for a few minutes,” Timothy said.