Pictured Above: Susan Miles Santana, Sgt. Marcus Santana, NAACP Eastern Long Island Branch President Lawrence Street, Membership Committee Chair Elena Rivera-Williams and Secretary Keisha Washington-Dean.
It isn’t often that the right person with the right skills is in the right place at the right time, but when U.S. Marine Sgt. Marcus Santana was en route from work at the Armed Forces recruiting office on East Main Street in Riverhead Nov. 24, of last year, his training did not let him down.
Sgt. Santana had stopped his truck to let a woman cross Flanders Road when the woman fell face down in the middle of the street. He quickly blocked traffic with his truck and then ran to her assistance. Finding her pulseless, he began CPR compressions, continuing until EMTs arrived.
The woman lived, and was home with her family for the holidays, where Sgt. Santana, a 27-year-old graduate of Riverhead High School, has checked in on them from time to time — they live near the recruiting office.
“I’m just glad I was there,” he said of the day he saved her life. “It was a very humbling experience. I was just coming from work, trying to get my coffee…. If that were my grandmother, I would hope someone would be there to stop and help.”
The NAACP Eastern Long Island Branch honored Sgt. Santana on Jan. 29, awarding him the inaugural Sgt. Marcus L. Santana Special Recognition Award, to be presented in the future to community members who exhibit heroism and courage.
On hand for the ceremony, at the Riverhead Free Library, were NAACP Eastern Long Island Branch President Lawrence Street, Membership Committee Chair Elena Rivera-Williams and Secretary Keisha Washington-Dean. The three officers also presented Sgt. Santana with a one-year membership to the NAACP.
Ms. Rivera-Williams said the award was being presented in recognition “of a heroic act of humanism and kindness.”
“It is not rare for a community to be in need of heartfelt and equitable assistance for the betterment of individuals, as well as the village,” said Ms. Rivera-Williams. “Bravery is a sought-after behavior. Strength to put the well-being of others before your own is necessary and obviously innate in a hero such as yourself.”
“What you did has created a legacy for yourself…. We want to continue your legacy,” said Mr. Street. “What I mean by that is that if I grab somebody out of a burning building, they’re going to say, ‘Mr. Street, we want to present you with the Sgt. Marcus L. Santana award.’ So your legacy will continue with our branch forever. It will never die, because we have made this award now a part of your legacy and you as well as a part of ours.”
“We need people like you in our organization,” he added.
“I’m overwhelmed. I’m at a loss for words,” said Sgt. Santana.
Sgt. Santana’s mother, Susan Miles Santana, said she was surprised by the new award being named for her son, but she wasn’t surprised at his actions that day.
“It’s just who he is,” she said, as she and her son bundled up to face the cold afternoon. Turns out, Sgt. Santana, who has been in the Marines for five years, had to get back to work meeting with potential recruits.
“They’re always nervous,” he said. “The Marines have a reputation as the fiercest fighters.”
But then, he said, he gets to talking with the recruits and their fears begin to dissipate. Heroes, they realize, lead with their humanity and humility.