From their safety patrol post on a median strip near Orr Elementary school in Southeast Washington, Richard Parks Jr. and Raeshaun Turner could see the brown station wagon barreling the wrong way down Naylor Road, heading straight for the children they were helping to cross the street.
Blowing his whistle furiously, Richard, who was 11 when the incident occurred last October, pushed one child onto the sidewalk while Raeshaun, then 10, yanked another out of the path of the oncoming car.
But it was too late to protect themselves. "My mind just went blank," Raeshaun recalled.
The car, whose driver was ticketed for driving without brakes, hit Raeshaun and Richard at what D.C. police called a "high rate of speed," knocking them into the yard of an apartment complex more than 30 feet away.
Last week, the two fifth graders -- still limping as they recovered from broken legs -- were cited by the American Automobile Association as Outstanding Safety Patrols for 1990. They were also honored by Orr School Principal Lawrence E. Boone as "loyal and valuable students who helped protect classmates from traffic danger."
On June 19, D.C. Council member John Wilson (D-Ward 2) will honor them with a resolution recognizing their courage and award them savings bonds. And, as if there still might be doubt that they were indeed children of valor, Richard and Raeshaun will end the school year as they began it: back on their safety patrol at the busy, and near-fatal, three-way intersection of Minnesota Avenue, Naylor Road and 22nd Street SE.
"That's what she wanted to do, and I felt proud because she is so brave," said Raeshaun's mother, Celeste Turner. "It's something that she really enjoys doing. Ever since she started on the safety patrol, her grades have been improving, so I'm all for it, too."
"I was surprised that Ricky wanted to get back out there," said his mother, Alyce Alexander. "My heart had dropped to my foot when I heard what had happened. But he seems more determined than ever to help his classmates to cross that street."
The problem faced by the young safety patrol is not so much a matter of traffic volume, which is high, but of driver courtesy and responsibility, which seems to be at an all-time low. Despite yellow signs urging motorists to show caution, many cars speed through the area at 50 to 75 miles an hour, according to Orr School officials.
"The disregard that motorists have shown towards our students is appalling," said Mary Melvin, the adult school crossing guard who supervises the safety patrol. "Here we are trying to teach kids about obeying rules, but all around them are adults breaking rules that are supposed to protect children."
Phyllis Lee, the Orr safety patrol sponsor, says student patrols develop discipline and a sense of responsibility, which is why study habits and grades have improved among the participants. But, she added, the students question their own self-worth when motorists treat them like mere obstacles on a race course.
After last year's accident, however, many students became angry with motorists, prompting a record number of them to volunteer for the safety patrol program.
"They were really moved by the sacrifice that Ricky and Raeshaun had made for them," Lee said.
Even in the agonizing aftermath of the accident, a dazed Richard had tried to crawl back to his safety patrol post. His right leg had been broken, his knee was crushed and there was a knot on his forehead the size of a tennis ball.
"I said, 'Ricky, don't try to move,' " Lee recalled. "But he just looked up and said, 'I don't want you to be mad at me for laying down on the job.' "
The screws that hold Richard's shattered bones together are scheduled to be removed next month and he will have to spend the rest of the summer with his leg in a cast.
Raeshaun's right leg and left shoulder were fractured. Both children spent nearly three months in hospitals.
"I just kept dreaming about saving more kids," Raeshaun recalled while back on her post last week. "Sometimes, I have flashbacks, and it's scary when I see cars coming at me so fast. But that just makes me know how important my job is."