A North Buffalo crossing guard insists it's just part of her job. But police have a different way to describe a woman who used her body as a human shield. They call her a hero.
When crossing guard Kristen Masecchia spotted a car Tuesday afternoon moving toward a group of girls crossing Parkside Avenue at Linden Avenue, police said, she lunged in front of it, shielding the girls and absorbing most of the car's impact.
Masecchia and three girls suffered injuries ranging from bruises to back pain. They were all at their homes Wednesday after being treated in two area hospitals and released. A fourth girl in the group was unharmed.
"It was a very noble act on her part," said Officer Marilyn Betz, an investigator with the Buffalo Police Department's Accident Investigation Unit.
"Crossing guards are like an extension of the Police Department, and that's why we have them there. She was really being protective of those kids."
The driver, Elizabeth Reidpath, 89, of Wilbury Place, was issued a traffic summons accusing her of running a red light.
Masecchia, 35, said she was wearing a bright orange vest and standing with arms extended at 2:45 p.m. as the girls -- Lyndsey Abbott, 11; her sister Shauna, 10; Danielle Ryan, 8; and Danielle's sister Samantha, 11 -- crossed Parkside. All attend St. Mark's Elementary School, 399 Woodward Ave.
Buffalo police said Reidpath was northbound on Parkside when her 2002 Oldsmobile veered around two lanes of traffic.
"I looked up and saw this car plowing through the red light," recalled Masecchia, a crossing guard for six years. "I had just stepped off the curb with the four girls. I tried to dive on top of the kids so they didn't get hurt, and I fell on top of them. I got airlifted right up, hit the top of the hood and rolled off.
"Then [the driver] panicked, reversed and almost ran over the other girl," she added. "It happened so fast that I couldn't even believe it. . . . I just thank God the girls are OK."
The car rammed into Masecchia's back as she pushed Lyndsey and Danielle out of harm's way, police said. Lyndsey fell backward onto the pavement. Masecchia and Danielle rolled up onto the car's hood and fell onto the street. The car's side-view mirror hit Samantha's back. Shauna was not injured.
Masecchia suffered lower back and neck pains. Lyndsey has a sore left leg, bruised knee and scrapes on both hands. Danielle has a bump on her forehead and bruises on her legs, knees and right elbow. Samantha has bruises on her shins and lower back.
"It didn't even seem real. I thought I was imagining it," Lyndsey, a sixth-grader, said Wednesday, lying on her living room couch with a blue brace on her left leg and a pink Band-Aid on her knee. "I just remember Mrs. Masecchia screaming, 'Run girls. Run.' . . . It was scary because I saw my sister's book bag on the ground, and I thought she might have gotten hurt, too."
As Masecchia and Lyndsey lay in the street, neighbors ran out of their houses and motorists stopped their cars and crowded around them. Witnesses said the three other girls stood on the curb crying and shaking.
A retired teacher who lives nearby brought an ice pack and towel, which she placed on Lyndsey's injured leg. Within minutes, firefighters, paramedics and police arrived.
The retired teacher also called Susan Abbott, Lyndsey's mother, and informed her that her daughter had been struck by a car. Abbott drove to the scene, just in time to see the girl taken away on a stretcher. She accompanied her daughter in the ambulance to Women and Children's Hospital.
"When you see your child on a stretcher, you have to cry. The whole thing was pretty surreal. . . . Kristen did everything she could to save our kids," Abbott said, her voice cracking and tears filling her eyes.
Another ambulance took Masecchia to Sister's Hospital.
Linda Ryan, mother of Samantha and Danielle, drove the three other girls to Women and Children's Hospital.
Buffalo police say they have the option of recommending that the state Department of Motor Vehicles revoke the driver's license.
On Wednesday, Masecchia's back and neck pains were so intense she couldn't lie down. She was having trouble sleeping and could only sit upright in a chair. She also was wearing a neck brace for part of the day. Lyndsey was hobbling around her house on crutches and using a wheelchair borrowed from the Ryan family.
"Kristen took the brunt of the hit and saved all of the children," Abbott said. "It could have been so much worse."