Soribel Bonifacio had been ill with a terrible headache on Feb. 18 when she suddenly found herself unable to speak, the right side of her body paralyzed.
Fortunately, her son Anthony Rivas, a 3rd-grader at PS 88 in Ridgewood, knew exactly what to do.
“Mom, I’m not going to let you die,” the 9-year-old told his mother just before he calmly picked up the phone and dialed 911.
In a letter to Anthony’s principal, Bonifacio said that Anthony explained to the dispatcher everything that was happening, gave his home address and helped take care of his two younger brothers. All the while, she said, he was telling her not to worry and that the ambulance was on its way. Then he called his father at work and told him to come home, she said.
When paramedics arrived, Bonifacio said, Anthony was even able to give them her insurance ID card.
Bonifacio had suffered a stroke and spent four days in the hospital. “But thanks to my hero, my Anthony, I’m alive and well,” she wrote in the letter.
Anthony didn’t mention the incident to anyone at school. When his mother was released from the hospital, she delivered a letter to his teachers urging them to give Anthony “congratulations or a handshake so he can feel proud of himself.”
“We were shocked,” said Jodi Goldfarb, one of two teachers in Anthony’s integrated co-teaching class. “We told our students: Anthony is a hero. He saved his mother’s life. He’s not like Superman or Spider-Man, but he’s a hero.”
Anthony’s classmates applauded him with a standing ovation.
Anthony, whom Goldfarb describes as “very humble,” has taken all the attention in stride.
“He’s such a caring, selfless boy, it’s just in his nature,” said Geri Millocca, Anthony’s other 3rd-grade teacher. “He feels like anybody should be able to do what he did.”
PS 88 educators, Principal Robert Quintana, classmates and special guests gathered to honor Anthony on March 28 at an event at the school organized by teacher Audrey Glass. Anthony received a UFT medal of honor and other commendations.
Presenting him with a Junior EMT certificate were the FDNY emergency medical technicians who responded to Anthony’s 911 call, who noted that Anthony had even been able to translate for them.
Dressed for the occasion in a suit and tie, Anthony stood under a large banner proclaiming him “a hero to his family” and shyly acknowledged a round of applause.
For his teachers, Anthony’s life-saving actions were a natural extension of his personality.
“Family is very important to him,” said Goldfarb. “When his mom comes to pick him up, it doesn’t matter what kind of day he had, his whole demeanor is happy when he sees her.”