CLINTON — With no time to think and barely enough time to act, Kassandra Guymon raced barefoot across 225 feet of gravel and pavement to snatch a 4-year-old boy from the tracks as a train bore down on him.
That was on the morning of March 13, 2002, as the 17-year-old Northridge High School senior was on her way to school.
Her actions were recognized last week by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, which named her and 18 other recipients of the Carnegie Medal given to those who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the lives of others. She joins 38 other Utahns who have received the award since 1908.
The Clinton teenager, now a Weber State University freshman, clearly recalls the morning her mother drove her to high school. School was delayed for her class until 9:30 a.m. because of tests given another class. Normally, she would have been driven to school by her father, Gordon, an employee of Hill Air Force Base.
"As we crossed over the tracks, we saw a little boy playing on the tracks," Kassandra said, adding her mother asked her what she thought of the boy. She responded by saying he was probably on his way to a nearby elementary school.
"I had a strong impression to teach her, so I stopped the van and looked at his face. At that point, I felt a responsibility for the boy. I asked her what she thought now and she said he is so innocent and young he couldn't be in school," Katherine Guymon said.
At that point, Katherine Guymon pulled her van over and Kassandra got out to check the nearest house to see if anyone knew about the boy. At that time, the tracks were clear and Kassandra chatted briefly with a man at his door.
"As I was talking with him, the crossing arms went down and the bell started dinging. I couldn't see the boy, but mom could see him from the van. Mother started yelling to daughter to get the boy off the tracks.
Kassandra turned and made a mad dash from the yard and down the street toward the boy. Halfway across the street, she kicked off her sandals, which were slowing her down. The boy, oblivious to the danger he faced, was jumping up and down on the track and waving to the train, Kassandra said.
As she raced toward the boy, her mind was racing too. Should she call for him or yell at him to get off the tracks? No, she thought, that might frighten him into running down the track and she might not be able to catch up to him in time.
Running as fast as she could, the 5-foot 7-inch Kassandra reached the boy just moments, probably just seconds, before the train bore down on them both. "When she got so close to the tracks, I thought I had just sent my daughter to die," Katherine Guymon said. "She's very athletic and I knew her body runs faster than mine."
"It's not in her to yell at a child," Katherine Guymon said. "She has been a gymnastics teacher for almost five years and even volunteered at the elementary school. She has a high tolerance for children and because she had a little brother 3 years old, she knew yelling was not the right thing to do."
Kassandra gives credit for the rescue to a higher power. "I honestly believe he had to have guardian angels watching over him. Even with adrenaline, I couldn't run that fast. There had to be guardian angels holding that boy and helping me run."
Guardian angels, Katherine Guymon said, should be the ones given the award. "I cried last week when Carnegie called. We don't consider her a hero, she was just there in the right place at the right time. I said to her we should give gratitude to guardian angels watching out for the little boy. He's here on Earth for a reason and you are too. God had a chance to take both of you, but he didn't."
Kassandra and a police officer were recognized for bravery by the Utah Department of Public Safety at an awards banquet in November and she was named Outstanding Citizen of the Year in Clinton.
The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission was established April 15, 1904, by Andrew Carnegie, steel magnate and philanthropist, to recognize outstanding acts of heroism performed in the United States and Canada.