The morning started out like any other Monday for Tanisha Gill, a 1st-grade teacher at PS 66 in the Bronx. Then as Gill exited the No. 2 train at Freeman Street on March 31 on her way to school, she was approached on the platform by a girl who asked for help.
Wearing a school uniform and black sneakers with pink laces, the girl was crying and said she was lost.
“She was clearly upset,” said Gill. “She said that she had gotten off at the wrong stop and didn’t know how to get to school. Fortunately for her, she asked me to help her.”
The 7-year-old had been traveling on the subway with her older sister from her home in the Bronx to the Future Leaders Institute charter school in Harlem when the sisters got separated, with the 11-year-old remaining on the platform as the younger girl got onto the train.
Gill immediately called 911. But as they waited in the cold for police to arrive, sleet began to fall. She decided to bring the girl with her to PS 66 — but first, because the girl had said she was hungry, Gill took her to a bodega and bought her a bagel and orange juice.
Back at the school, the 1st-grader was able to tell Gill the names and phone numbers of her relatives, whom Gill began calling on her cell phone. Gill and her principal, Thomas DeGrazia, reached the girl’s mother — who was “very happy and thankful that we had her,” says Gill — as well as administrators at her school, where her sister had arrived safely.
“I’m not sure why she approached me for help,” Gill reflects. “I was wearing a backpack, and maybe she thought I looked like a teacher. But it could have been a sad story, so I’m just glad that she did.”
When Gill met the girl’s mother downstairs at PS 66’s security desk, Mom greeted her with a fierce hug. “I thought she was going to squeeze me to death,” says Gill. “She was so grateful. She just kept saying, ‘Thank God for you.’”