At first glance, this photo appears to show a police officer cuddling an abandoned toddler in Georgia. However, all may not be as it seems. When you take a closer look at the image, you will understand why it went viral.
James Hurst, a father of two, may have been new to the police force, but he looked like a seasoned officer after he found an abandoned toddler on the streets of Georgia when he and his colleagues were called out to the Cuyler-Brownsville neighborhood in Savannah. After receiving reports that a toddler, who was later discovered to be only 16-month-old, was wandering the streets alone, Officer Hurst arrived on the scene.
After Hurst, a policeman for less than a year, located the child in a high-traffic area, he picked the boy up and sent him straight to the emergency room via ambulance to be evaluated. Hurst provided the ambulance with a police escort to the hospital. There, a photo was taken of Officer Hurst looking after the child. It was posted online by the Savannah Police Department, where it received an overwhelming response.
“In a time of need, Officer Hurst goes above and beyond to comfort a young child earlier today,” the police department captioned the image. Officer Hurst later explained that the little boy became understandably upset and distressed, sobbing and crying as he was examined. Saddened by what he witnessed, Officer Hurst knew he couldn’t leave him alone.
A closer look at the image reveals that he is indeed waiting with the child in the hospital, proving to be an excellent security blanket for the scared and lonely little boy. The image of Officer Hurst was not taken at the scene in the back of an ambulance like many may have assumed at first glance. No, he’s there, in the hospital, with the toddler. Not only that, he’s not just at the child’s side, comforting him, he’s on the stretcher with the boy scooped up in his arms, showing him love like a father would. Some heroes wear capes, but this one happened to wear a badge.
“The boy, obviously, being so small, became very upset. He was crying. He was sobbing. I asked the hospital staff if I can hold him to comfort him and soothe him a little bit to try to calm him down, to continue getting medical care, and they said that was fine,” Officer Hurst recalled.
“So, I picked him up. Minutes later, I was standing and he was asleep on my chest, and with all my body armor and my gun belt, became very heavy holding this small child. So that’s when I decided to sit down on the bed and make it easier for him and me,” Hurst furthered.
“What kicked at me was really just humanity,” Officer Hurst said. “A screaming child sitting there getting evaluated by the hospital staff, I felt bad for him. So it was my empathy for him and just trying to be there for him because he had nobody else.” Hurst, who’s 34 with sons who are 7 and 9, added, “I was trying to soothe him like I did my two boys.”
Whether it was empathy or fatherly instincts, Hurst managed to calm the distraught, 20-pound toddler, rubbing his back and rocking him. He even managed to get the boy to relax enough to fall asleep on his chest. The boy then snoozed for nearly an hour, feeling comforted and secure, according to TODAY. Unsurprisingly, the photo of Hurst holding the child on the stretcher went viral since it depicted the officer going above and beyond, even though he considers what he did to be just doing his job.
Officer Hurst has been overwhelmed and humbled by people’s reactions to the tender moment and the heaps of praise for his kindness, but it’s all well-deserved. Thanks to him and his colleagues, the child is safe and in good health after being placed in the custody of the Georgia Department of Family & Children’s Services.
But, like most good guys, Officer Hurst doesn’t think he did anything special. “It’s what we do, every single day; not just me, but the 600 officers that are on this department,” he said. “This job is so much more than just chasing the bad guys. It is about serving the citizens of the communities you work in and doing what they need you to do.”
As for being called a hero, Hurst, who became a policeman after serving in the U.S. Army as a Black Hawk crew chief, says, “I didn’t run into a burning building, I was just there for a child.” While that may be true, not everyone would have done what he did.
Police officers work hard to protect their communities every day, putting their lives on the line to ensure our safety. But, these tough guys also know when to be tender, as Officer James Hurst proved. We thank all those involved in emergency services for all they do — share this story if you do too.