- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 13, 2006

It took a second or two for Jaimen Ortiz to fully comprehend what he was seeing: two toddlers playing in an open second-floor window and one of them hanging from the window sill.

So Mr. Ortiz hopped a fence and ran to the apartment building in Arlington. Just as he got there, the 2-year-old girl fell, screaming. Mr. Ortiz put out his arms and caught her cleanly, perhaps saving her life and certainly preventing serious injury.

“If I had delayed one more second, she would have fallen to the ground,” Mr. Ortiz said through a Spanish interpreter, recalling the Oct. 13 incident.

Mr. Ortiz’s quick thinking was honored yesterday in Arlington, where the County Board presented him with a certificate of recognition for his heroism.

Arlington Police Chief M. Douglas Scott said it’s unusual for a resident to react so quickly to an out-of-the-ordinary situation.

“You see two kids playing, your first assumption is that the parents are around somewhere,” Chief Scott said. “In this case, if he hadn’t reacted instantly, he’s not going to be in the position he was in” to catch the girl.

As it turns out, the children’s parents were nowhere to be found. The father of the 2-year-old and her 1-year-old sister had left the girls home alone, police said, and locked them in their room.

The father was charged with reckless endangerment, and his court case is pending. Police are not releasing his name to protect the identities of the girls, who are now in their mother’s custody.

Mr. Ortiz, for his part, said he had little time to think about what happened or to be nervous prior to making the catch.

“Once I caught her, I felt this rush of adrenaline,” he said.

Mr. Ortiz, 29, seemed slightly overwhelmed by the attention he received yesterday as he fielded multiple interview requests.

“I have a 5-year-old child, and you never know. Maybe someday he might need help like I was able to give to this girl,” he said.

While he was unaccustomed to the recognition, it’s not the first time he has been a hero.

As a teenager growing up in Guatemala, he helped save the wife of a friend from drowning.

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