Herald correspondent Nick Delgado recently accompanied crossing guard Lila Aviles on her morning shift for the “Day in the Life” series on Heights occupations.
It was one of the nicest mornings I had seen recently when I made my way to the intersection of East Iowa Drive and Mountain Lion Road to learn the functions of a Killeen Independent School District crossing guard. I’ve often thought of crossing guards as the friendly people who smile and wave as you pass through a school zone in the mornings and afternoons. But what was it like on the other side?
7 a.m. Meeting the boss
As I approached the corner, I bumped into the crossing guard I would shadow for the next hour. Wearing a neon hat and reflector jacket, she was equipped with a hand-held stop sign, light stick and radio. She had just clocked in for work at Mountain View Elementary.
Lila Aviles, 71, became a crossing guard four years ago after spending some time in retirement. She made her way to Central Texas about six years ago to be closer to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. But with most of Aviles’ time spent with her husband, she decided to get back into the job pool.
“I needed to get away,” she said. “Plus I love this (job) and it’s nice to help the kids.”
7:04 a.m. First wave of crossers
Just minutes into the workday, Aviles held up her stop sign and light stick, signaling motorists to come to a complete stop while she walked students across the street. It’s a job that seemed simple enough — until she told me about its challenges.
“You have to wait until the student steps onto the sidewalk before you clear the road,” she said. “But the traffic is sometimes overwhelming.”
7:10 a.m. Stop before the line
Some major issues she deals with are cars that stop on the crosswalk or don’t stop at all. Aviles told of several instances where she had to hold back students when cars rolled through the intersection.
“Friday was very scary,” she said. “I was in the middle of the road, crossing with the kids, and a car just swifts by the stop sign and went on by.”
She said it’s difficult to always get a complete description of the vehicle to report it, as her focus is ensuring the students’ safety.
She informed me of some simple rules to follow.
“Put up your sign before you go out there, wait until kids are on the sidewalk before you move and don’t argue with the cars.”
I noticed a bit of road rage, with cars honking as they competed to pass through the intersection.
7:17 a.m. A friendly gesture
I was happy to see there were some people who showed appreciation for Aviles’ hard work.
“There are nice people that yell ‘Thank you’ for what you are doing,” she said. “It’s fun.”
Aviles waved back at the drivers with her stop sign.
7:24 a.m. The usuals
As Aviles walked students and parents across the crosswalk, she also engaged in small talk. It was part of the job that I found interesting and essential, as crossing guards take responsibility for protecting the lives of everyone crossing between the housing area and the schools.
7:35 a.m. Pay attention
Halfway through the shift, and so much was already done. Aviles said she helps at least 60 kids cross the street every day.
I was disturbed by a driver who disobeyed Aviles’ light-stick signal to stop at the four-way so a student could cross from the adjacent corner. He just proceeded through. Aviles said the intersection is one of the worst corners, and she felt more police enforcement was needed there during the week.
7:46 a.m. More crossing
We continued to help more students cross the street safely until our shift came to an end around 8 a.m. But Aviles continued to the elementary school, where she works in the cafeteria during lunch. In the afternoon, she was scheduled to return for another crossing guard shift.
As she headed off to her second job, Aviles asked me to remind the community to remain alert in school zones and to have consideration for the children who are crossing.