When the ringing telephone jolted Audrey Outzs out of a sound sleep early one Sunday morning, she initially thought the crying voice on the other end was a prankster.
Within minutes, though, she found herself reaching out to 4-year-old Marquita Davis, whose mother had just suffered a stroke, keeping the little girl on the line while Prince George's County police traced the call and rescued the woman.
Brendolyn Davis, 31, spent nearly two months at Greater Southeast Hospital recovering from her stroke and now walks with a cane. Yesterday, she met Outzs and her son for the first time at a police department awards ceremony, hugging them and thanking them both profusely.
"I'm so thankful to Mrs. Outzs and her kind nature," Davis said, her voice breaking. "I'm just so overwhelmed by all of this."
Outzs, 49, and her son Leon, 28, both of Capitol Heights, received Outstanding Citizenship Awards at police headquarters in Landover. Police Chief David Mitchell also presented county dispatcher Rita McClain-Farrow with a commendation for her part in the real-life drama.
"Marquita looked for help and those around her didn't let her down," Mitchell said.
On the morning of Sept. 2, Marquita found her mother unconscious on the bedroom floor of their Temple Hills apartment with blood running from her nose. The girl began dialing random numbers looking for help. After the first person she reached hung up on her, she got Outzs.
Marquita "kept saying, 'My mommy won't wake up, my mommy won't wake up,' " Outzs recalled yesterday. "I told her not to hang up the phone, that help was on the way."
Outzs woke her son and told him to keep Marquita on the line while she used another phone line to call police. For the next half-hour, he tried to coax a phone number or an address from the child while police dispatcher McClain-Farrow traced the call.
Leon Outzs said he kept the girl on the line by talking with her about cartoons and coloring books. When he heard police knocking on the door, he told Marquita it was all right to let them in.
According to county police, 911 recorded the call at 8:48 a.m. By 9:12, C&P Telephone Co. had traced the call to Marquita's home and dispatchers were able to send a rescue vehicle to her home by 9:18.
"I just did what the county hired me to do," McClain-Farrow said during the awards ceremony. A police dispatcher for three years, she added, "If Mrs. Outz hadn't believed Marquita and had just dismissed her as another prankster, I shudder to think what would have happened."
Marquita, dressed in a red and white polka-dot dress with white ribbons streaming from her hair, shyly hid from the cameras and reporters. "Who did you call for help, Marquita?" she was asked.
"Nobody special," the girl answered. "I needed help because my momma couldn't wake up."
Outzs agrees that she was no one special, just a concerned citizen. "I think that anyone would do it."