A four-year-old girl snuck out of her home in a working-class section of Philadelphia in the wee hours of Friday morning and got on a bus, determined to obtain a slushie from a neighborhood 7-Eleven.
The paternal instincts of the driver, Harlan Jenifer, kicked in pretty quickly when he saw the little girl board his Route 56 bus, NBC Philadelphia reports.
Jenifer, a father of three, contacted authorities and saw the little girl, named Annabelle, to safety.
Annabelle ended up under Jenifer’s supervision after a man placed her on the bus. The unidentified man explained that he himself had found the girl wandering in the rain near the intersection of Magee and Torresdale Avenues.
While Annabelle sat on the bus, Jenifer said, she regaled him and her fellow passengers with the story of how she got dressed — thoughtfully choosing a raincoat — and let herself out the back door in search of her favorite sugary frozen drink.
The bus driver said he was very happy the girl found her way onto his bus.
“In this day and age, with all the stuff going on, someone could have picked her up,” he told NBC Philadelphia. “It was really scary to see her out there at that time of night by herself.”
Police took the little girl to a nearby hospital where she was reunited with her mother, who had no idea her daughter was missing until she received a call from police.
“There are no words,” emotional mother Jaclyn Ridgeway said in a subsequent interview, according to the Daily Mail. “He saved my daughter’s life.”
“Thank God for the bus driver,” father Timothy Ridgeway added.
No criminal charges have been filed.