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Kent garbage truck driver helps stranded girl
Kent garbage truck driver Hal Smith noticed a young girl standing alone on the other side of the street as he rumbled through his final East Hill neighborhood on a recent afternoon.
"She put her fingers in her ears because the truck was so loud," Smith said.
But more than just that action by the girl caught Smith's attention.
"Something just didn't look right," said Smith, of Eatonville, and the father of two young girls.
As Smith came back down the street, he saw the girl sitting alone on a home's porch. The girl walked toward Smith and he figured he better find out what was going on.
"I asked her if she was OK and she broke down bawling," said Smith, who has worked for Allied Waste Services of Kent for just more than a year but has been in the garbage hauling business for a dozen years.
The girl told Smith that she had gotten off the school bus but could not get into her house because the doors were locked and nobody was home. She didn't have a cellphone. Smith used his phone to call her mother's number but it turned out to be the home phone and not a cellphone. Neighbors also were gone.
Smith found out the 7-year-old girl was a second grader from Meridian Elementary on the East Hill, so he called the school and told the school secretary the girl could not get into her house. Meridian Principal Shannan Painter and the secretary then came to pick up the girl.
"We hung out for about 20 minutes," Smith said. "I showed her how the truck works and we talked about vacations and bees."
Painter said the actions by Smith deserve plenty of praise.
"I was ecstatic," Painter said. "The garbageman turned out to be a hero for us."
Painter said the mother of the girl had forgotten that Feb. 16 was an early release day because of school conferences. The mother met the principal back at Meridian to pick up her daughter.
"It very rarely happens," Painter said about a student getting stranded. "We're relieved it turned out OK and mom was relieved. It was a good reunion."
Painter said parents are required to meet kindergarten students when they get off the bus but there's no such requirement for elementary-age children. She said bus drivers try to keep an eye on the older students who walk from the bus stop to home.
"She went home and mom is usually there," Painter said.
Smith said he understood how the mother forgot about the early dismissal.
"I'm assuming it slipped her mind," he said. "Things get hectic. I can see how it could happen."
Smith said he tries to keep an eye on things as he goes through neighborhoods.
"I was happy I could help out," he said. "My daughters are 6 and 8. I'm glad I was in the right place at the right time."