Eight-year-old Brantley student saves her grandmother#039;s life

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 28, 2007

For Penny Driggers of Brantley, guardian angels can come in all sizes. This includes a second grader at Brantley School who just happens to be her granddaughter.

During the evening of April 9, Driggers was about to take her four grandchildren to their home, which was only about 600 yards away. She began to back out of her carport when she noticed a light on the dashboard that was on, indicating that one of the vehicle's doors was open.

&#8220I thought I had put the van in park, but I had put it in neutral,” Driggers said. &#8220I didn't realize that.”

As she got out to check the doors, Driggers said that she was holding one-year-old Mary Katherine Driggers, her granddaughter.

&#8220I began to close the sliding door on the driver's side, and I saw the van was moving,” she said. &#8220The driver's door was open, and I tried to hold it with my body because I knew the kids were in the van.”

This included her other grandchildren, Caroline, 3, Parker, 6, and Madeline, 8.

&#8220I soon realized I couldn't hold that doorŠ it knocked me down, and I pushed the baby about two or three feet away from me before I fell,” Driggers said. &#8220By the grace of God, I did that. After I hit the ground, I could feel the tires coming up my legsŠ..it all happened so fast.”

Driggers said that she told Madeline, 8, over and over again to go inside and get her grandfather to come out and help.

Harry Driggers, Penny's husband, has been the fire chief in Brantley for 21 years, and he worked at Fort Rucker as a firefighter for 30 years.

&#8220Madeline was in the front seat, and I could hear Parker and Caroline crying,” Penny Driggers said. &#8220I began to feel the pressure of the tiresŠ.I couldn't breatheŠthe tire rolled up my left leg, up to my right leg's knee, and it rolled all the way up to the groin area. I could feel the pressure on my lower back. That's when I thought death was knocking at my door.”

All of a sudden, Driggers said the tire stopped. That was when eight-year-old Madeline climbed into the driver's seat and applied the brakes and would not let go.

&#8220Madeline was so calmŠshe didn't listen to me when I told her to go get her granddaddy,” Driggers said. &#8220This is one time I'm glad she didn't listen to me.”

&#8220My granddaddy had taught me something about the brakes,” Madeline said. &#8220I don't know why I was so calmŠI didn't know what shape she was going to be inŠI was scared.”

Madeline said that even though her grandmother sees her as a hero, she doesn't really feel like one.

&#8220I just did what I felt like I had to do,” the second grader said. &#8220I had one foot on the brake. I thought everything was okay after Granddaddy got out there.”

&#8220I've been to a lot of wrecks,” Harry Driggers said. &#8220But when you see your wife pinned under a car, it's a whole different ballgame.”

Driggers said after he saw his wife lying face down under the van, that's when he noticed that Madeline had her foot on the brakes. He immediately got into the van, put his foot on the brakes and put the van into park.

&#8220The baby screaming is what brought me out of the house,” he said. &#8220The other two kids were screaming, but Madeline was just as calm as she could be.”

After Penny Driggers was taken to Crenshaw Community Hospital, the x-rays showed no broken bones, even though she was admitted overnight due to shock and trauma. Other than being black and blue, she is expected to make a full recovery.

&#8220I believe in guardian angels,” Driggers said. &#8220I know that God put in her what she needed to do. He put angels around her and around me.”

&#8220I look at life a little differently now,” she added. &#8220Anyone who has been that close to death will understand what I'm talking about. I tell my husband, my children, my grandchildren, my whole family and my friends that I love them now more than ever.”

As for being a hero, how does Madeline feel?

&#8220It feels like I helped my whole family a lot,” she said. &#8220I couldn't lose my grandmother.”