Laronda Marshall was making her daily rounds in Miami last month, threading a 30,000-pound, 40-foot public transit bus through the heat in busy South Florida traffic.

All of a sudden, a passenger who was getting off the bus told her that a man in the back was slumped over and seemed ill. Marshall, 50, quickly parked the bus and walked back to take a look.

The passenger, who she guessed was in his mid-30s, was unconscious and nonresponsive, and when Marshall tried to take his pulse, she couldn’t find one, she said. Marshall, a former nurse’s aide, told another passenger to dial 911, and she started steady chest compressions. She continued CPR, and by the time emergency workers arrived 10 minutes later, the passenger was breathing again, she said.

Paramedics on the scene that day, Sept. 19, told her that if she hadn’t performed CPR, the man probably would have died. “I still don’t know who he is,” Marshall said. “But I’m told he’s doing fine.”

It was the third time in two years that the self-described “football grandma” helped somebody in an apparent life-or-death situation on her bus route, according to Miami-Dade Transit officials.

Bus drivers, especially in urban areas, are not often recognized for their steady hands and even tempers, and in fact have been the targets of shocking physical and verbal attacks so often that many cities have added protective barriers around the driver’s area to shield them from assaults.

Rarely do they get recognized for feats of good, said Alice N. Bravo, director of the Department of Transportation and Public Works in Miami. She singled out Marshall as someone who looks out for her passengers, even beyond delivering them safely to their destinations.

“She always places the well-being and safety of those she serves as her top priority, even in challenging situations,” Bravo said.

Last Thursday, our Miami-Dade Transit Metrobus operator Laronda Marshall saved the life of an unresponsive passenger...

Posted by Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation and Public Works on Friday, September 27, 2019

The first time Marshall stopped her bus to render aid to someone was in September 2017, when she saw one of her regular passengers — a man in his 70s who rode her bus to work every morning — lying in the middle of a street.

"He'd been hit by a car while crossing the street and his leg was broken," she said. "Everyone was just driving around him. Nobody was stopping to help."

Marshall maneuvered her bus to block drivers from coming too close to the scene, she said, then sat on the ground and wrapped her arms around the injured man to comfort him and to try to keep him conscious until an ambulance arrived.

"He looked lifeless and was in a lot of pain," Marshall recalled. "I was so relieved when I learned he was going to make it."

About a month later, she was on her regular route when she saw that an 8-year-old girl had wandered into the middle of the street early one morning, clutching a teddy bear. The girl was unable to speak and had wandered away from home, said Marshall.

She stopped the bus, helped the child aboard, sat her in a seat up front and called police, who picked her up and tracked down her parents, Marshall said.

Marshall said she’s always been someone who can "stay cool in a crisis."

"I'm a single mom who raised two daughters on my own," she said. "That taught me a lot."

Before she became a driver for Miami-Dade County in 2011, Marshall worked for several years as a certified nursing assistant, then drove a public school bus for seven years so she could keep hours similar to those of her daughters'.

Her current daily schedule is more demanding, she said.

“I start my route at 5:30, make two trips through downtown, up and back, then go home precisely at 10:43 every morning to cook and clean,” she said. “Then in the afternoon, I come back to work at 3:25 and drive again until 6:48.”

She also volunteers after work to help with football practice for one of her grandsons' youth teams.

“I enjoy that more than anything,” she said. “I get there for the last hour of practice, five days a week, then I drive my grandson home.”

She said as a bus driver, she is acutely aware of the effect she can have on people’s lives.

“You have to stay focused out there — I have a lot of lives in my hands when I’m driving,” she said.

Marshall said one thing she does not tolerate is when an elderly person climbs aboard and younger passengers won’t give up their seats at the front that are designated for seniors.

“It’s so disrespectful — I won’t move the bus until they move and give that senior citizen a seat,” she said. “When they realize that I’m serious and I’m not going to drive until they move, then they finally give up. Really, I shouldn’t even have to ask.”

After last month’s CPR incident in the bus aisle, Marshall said she hopes everyone involved in public transit will be inspired to learn the lifesaving procedure.

“You just never know when you might need it,” she said. “You could save a stranger, or even somebody in your own family.”

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