AUBREY — Cindy McCraw was panicked. She had just left work early following a call from her youngest son’s school.

During the phone call with Brockett Elementary School Principal Kari Abrams, she repeatedly said that 5-year-old Lincoln McCraw was safe, but that did little to reassure his mother.

“The first thing out of her mouth was, ‘Lincoln’s okay. I just want you to know Lincoln’s okay. He’s in the nurse’s office,’” McCraw said. “And she repeated it several times.”

At first, she didn’t think much of it: “He’s broken his toe before; he’s a boy, things happen.”

Then the real story dropped — Lincoln had choked at lunch and a teacher had to administer the Heimlich maneuver.

McCraw and her husband, Gary McCraw, both work in law enforcement. She’s a 911 dispatcher, so she’s somewhat used to calls like the one she had just gotten, but it was inexplicably different to hear about something happening to her own son.

“[Gary McCraw] was calmer than I was, which is shocking because I get paid to be calm and help people through emergencies, but it was my own child,” Cindy McCraw said. “I don’t know how to explain it.”

She was at the intersection of worried mother and law enforcement professional. Questions started flying: Did he lose oxygen? How long was he unable to breathe? Did he lose consciousness?

Nobody had the answers.

Cindy McCraw had already called her husband to let him know what was going on. She worked to collect herself before entering Brockett Elementary School.

“I don’t like my kids seeing me upset or mad or crying or anything like that,” she said.

She said put in eye drops and tried her best to calm down before going in. Despite her best preparations, she broke into tears as soon as she saw Kristie Sanders, the teacher who had saved her son’s life.

On April 4, after being alerted by a student, Sanders saw Lincoln was choking. Performing the Heimlich maneuver for only the second time in her 20 years of teaching, Sanders cleared the blockage so Lincoln could breathe again.

“I can’t say enough about the little boy that told me because he was very brave,” Sanders said. “I am very proud that he took initiative and came to me and told me right away.”

She was on lunch duty, just like she was three times per week. She was about a yard from Lincoln when the student next to him got her attention.

“He said, ‘Mrs. Sanders, Lincoln is not okay,’” she recalled.

She asked Lincoln if he was okay. He shook his head and gave the universal sign for choking.

Like many students around him, Lincoln had been enjoying his lunch of tacos in the school cafeteria when a piece of taco shell lodged itself in his windpipe.

When asked what he choked on, Lincoln said simply, “Taco shell. A hard one.

“I only eat soft tacos now,” he later added.

Lincoln couldn’t say what kind of tacos he was eating, but he remembers exactly where he was sitting when it happened: the very last seat at the end of a long table, two tables from the wall of windows.

Out of the entire ordeal, he seemed to remember best the Heimlich itself, especially when Sanders briefly held him upside down to dislodge the shell.

He said it was, “like I was standing on my head.”

With Lincoln safely back in her arms, Cindy McCraw prepared to leave the school. She only had one more stop to make. Her 7-year-old daughter, Harley, might have seen her brother choking.

Fearing a budding trauma, McCraw stopped by her daughter’s classroom to make sure she was feeling alright.

In typical child-like fashion, Harley shrugged off the incident and said everything was fine now.

“Perfect, no trauma,” Cindy McCraw said when remembering the incident.

Shifting back to the pragmatic, McCraw knew Lincoln hadn’t really had lunch for the day, so she stopped at a drive-thru to grab him a grilled cheese sandwich.

“As we’re driving home he goes, ‘Mom, I didn’t want to die,’” Cindy McCraw said.

She tried to convince him it wasn’t that serious. It was only a chip, and Mrs. Sanders had gotten it out. She said Lincoln told her he knew he might die because he couldn’t breathe.

Since the incident on April 4, Cindy McCraw has reached out to two newspapers, the Aubrey school board and the Aubrey town council, as well as Sen. Jane Nelson.

She’s doing her best to make sure Sanders gets the recognition McCraw feels she deserves.

“We always see so many negative things in the world,” Gary McCraw said. “We think [Sanders] deserves her five seconds.”

Sanders, along with the boy who alerted her, received formal recognition before the school board, and Nelson filed Senate Resolution 642 on April 25 in honor of Sanders’ acts to save Lincoln.

MARSHALL REID can be reached at 940-566-6862 and via Twitter at @MarshallKReid.

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