Sixth-grader Ziarra Griffin witnessed a “real life hit-and-run,” and instantly knew that writing a note and leaving it for the owner of the car was the right thing to do.
Griffin and her brother were the last students to disembark from their school bus route in Buffalo, New York. After exiting the bus on Nov. 20, they entered their mom’s car to drive the rest of the way home. Then they watched as the school bus driver tried to pull out.
The school bus was sandwiched between two other parked cars, and as the bus pulled away, it struck one of the vehicles. But instead of stopping, the school bus continued on.
“I thought she [the bus driver] would park somewhere else around the block and come out and see what she did,” Griffin said. “I’ve never seen a real life hit-and-run before. I knew I had to do something about it. So, I wrote a note, saying this is what happened.”
Griffin said the bus driver later claimed to have not noticed hitting the other car, but the girl said the collision caused “a loud noise.”
Tocarra Lewis, Griffin’s mom, recalled that while her daughter was writing the note, she asked neighbors (who by that point had begun congregating at the scene), if they knew who owned the car.
“I was surprised that [Griffin] even knew to do that, at an instant,” Lewis said. “It was like second nature to her. There wasn’t even a pause, she said, ‘I need to write a note, I need to do something. We need to let whoever’s car this is know that a bus hit it.’”
Griffin said she wants to be an artist one day and manage her own business. Her dream is to sell t-shirts that display her artwork. However, the school bus drawn at the bottom of the note she left, Griffin derided, was not her best work.
“Later on, she said, ‘Mom, you know that wasn’t my best artwork right, because you were rushing me.’ I thought that was pretty cute. It just made me smile even more,” Lewis said.
Shoutout to the anonymous 6th grader for saving me a couple thousand (Bus not drawn to scale) pic.twitter.com/7aNK10xSwX
— Andrew Sipowicz (@Andrew_Sipowicz) November 20, 2018
As School Transportation News previously reported, the owner of the car is Andrew Sipowicz, a baseball player at nearby Canisius College. He posted a picture of the note and the dent on Twitter in an effort to identify the Good Samaritan. It quickly went viral, and comments poured in commending the good deed.
But for Griffin, it was just the right thing to do.
Lewis said she is grateful for all the positive feedback online. She said the messages have helped her confirm the values that she raised her children with. As a single parent, Lewis said she constantly praises her children and encourages them to always do the right thing.
“It’s good to hear it from someone else who doesn’t even know your heart,” Lewis said. “They only know a piece of your heart, but that’s just who she [Griffin] is. It’s good to be recognized when you do something good. I feel like there’s a lot of people recognized for doing something wrong, and for people to be interested in hearing her story—by doing what she felt was right in her heart—that speaks volumes.”
When the note went viral, Lewis said the school district immediately recognized who wrote the note by examining the penmanship. Lewis said she was at work, when her phone started blowing up with messages about recent news articles that highlighted the hit-and-run and resulting note.
“I was pretty surprised, because I would have never thought that so many people would be interested in hearing something so good,” Lewis said. “You hear on the news a lot of things, but it’s not always so great. But, the people spoke, it seemed like everyone wanted to know what happened, and that a child can do something that is right. And sometimes it takes a child to do something right, when the adult doesn’t do what’s right.”
As for Griffin, she no longer rides the bus to school every day, but suggested that school buses be cleaner, and for bus drivers to not drive away from the scene of a crash.
“Don’t hit-and-run,” Griffin said. “Don’t drive off.”
Lewis said she also encourages bus drivers to pay more attention to their surroundings. Even though there were no children on this particular bus at the time, Lewis said the bus driver should have considered her own safety, and that she should have fessed up and waited for the police.
“If everyone just worked as a community, children would be much safer,” Lewis said. “It just takes everyone committing to being their best selves, regardless of the law, for the greater good of people and humanity.”
Griffin eventually met Sipowicz, who presented her with a gift card to one of her favorite stores.