Jaimen Ortiz wasn't planning on doing something heroic. He was merely strolling home along South 8th Street, through the Colombia Heights neighborhood in West Arlington, on an otherwise ordinary mid-October day. Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, the 29-year-old saw two little girls playing by a window on the second floor of a nearby apartment building.
Ortiz shot a second glance in their direction, and realized one of the girls was dangling outside the window, perilously close to falling. Then instinct kicked in. "At that moment, without even thinking, I jumped a fence... ran toward the building and got under the window," Ortiz said through an interpreter.
Just as Ortiz reached the side of the building, the 2-year-old girl lost her grip and plummeted to the ground. Ortiz reached out his arms and caught the toddler.
"If I had delayed one more second, she would have fallen to the ground," Ortiz said.
Last Tuesday the Arlington County Board honored Ortiz for his courageous action and swift legs.
The County Board "wants to recognize Jaimen Ortiz for his very quick thinking that saved a child in our community from what could have been a very bad result," County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman said.
After catching the child, Ortiz called the police, who found that the 2-year-old girl and her 1-year-old sister had been left home alone. The father was later arrested and charged with two counts of reckless endangerment, said John Lisle, Arlington police spokesman.
Ortiz, who was born in Guatemala, seemed overwhelmed by the publicity he has received and the cameras and reporters present at the board meeting.
He said he garnered "true satisfaction" from saving the toddler, and added that he hopes an Arlington resident would return the favor if his child was ever in similar danger.
"I have a 5-year-old child and you never know, one day he might need someone's help like the little girl I helped," Ortiz said.
This is not the first time Ortiz's quick thinking has saved the life of another person. When he was a teenager in Guatemala, Ortiz rescued a woman who was drowning in a river.