On an ordinary summer afternoon in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, five-year-old Jocelyn Rojas entertained herself playing in her grandmother’s front yard. With blonde hair, brown eyes, stylish glasses, and a courageous, radiant smile, Jocelyn is the picture of an adorable all-American girl.
A white man in his seventies approached her. He walked with a limp. Witnesses say he wore green shoes, green pants and a red-and-white striped shirt.
Preying on her innocence, he persuaded Jocelyn to accompany him. He offered to buy her some ice cream. She trusted him.
And just like that, they both vanished.
Jocelyn’s family called the police. Authorities issued an Amber Alert signaling a serious child-abduction case.
“Horrible, horrible thoughts flashed through my mind,” said Jocelyn’s grandmother.
Monsters exist. In real life, they are much scarier than the imaginary horrors of science fiction.
Each year, low-life scumbags abduct about 58,000 unrelated children, primarily for sexual purposes, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Nearly half of these children are sexually assaulted.
Far too often, the abductors murder the children, hold them for ransom, or intend to keep them indefinitely.
“You see the Amber Alerts and you think, ‘I feel for that family,’” said Jocelyn’s grandmother. “But when you’re in that situation … it’s horrible.”
The Amber Alert galvanized the community. People of all ages joined in the search for Jocelyn.
Temar Boggs, a fifteen-year-old African American, was helping move an elderly woman’s couch at a nearby apartment complex that evening when he learned of the ongoing search.
He and his friend Chris Garcia hopped on their bikes. About a half-mile from the apartment complex, Boggs spotted Jocelyn in a dark red car with an old white man behind the wheel.
Boggs knew they had little time to prevent a young child from becoming another heartbreaking story on the evening news.
He was not going to let that happen. The young men spotted Jocelyn and pursued the car for fifteen minutes.
“Every time we would go down the street, he would turn back around, and we’d go back and follow him,” Boggs told WGAL.
“As soon as the guy started noticing that we were chasing him, he stopped at the end of the hill and let her out,” Boggs recalled. “She ran to me and said that she needed her mom.”
Boggs realizes that he might have saved Jocelyn’s life. He sees it as “a blessing for me to make that happen.” His proud mother remarked that Boggs is “learning what I tell him, to help others.”
Without regard for his own personal safety, fifteen-year-old Temar Boggs “distinguished himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”
Soldiers who meet that standard receive the congressional medal of honor. Boggs deserves similar recognition for his valor.
One little girl and her family will never forget that monsters lurk among us, seeking to do us harm, and heroes take the shape of a fearless fifteen-year-old African American boy on a bike.
In the polarized aftermath of the George Zimmerman trial, we should recognize and celebrate the ones who make our country great, of any age or race.
Let’s make Temar Boggs a household name and teach our children what it means to be a hero.
Gayle Trotter is an attorney and writer. Her views are her own.