Letter carrier honored for helping 11-year-old girl

By PATRICK RIPLEY, Staff Writer

In his 20 years delivering mail in the Gerard Plaza area of Glen Burnie,
Thomas Soroka has never considered the people along his route merely
customers.

“The people become more than just people, they become your family,” he
said Tuesday.

That relationship paid off in a big way in October, when the letter
carrier led police to a man who allegedly tried to abduct an 11-year-old
Marley Middle School student. Mr. Soroka was honored for his heroism this
week by postal officials, police and school faculty at the Glen Burnie
Post Office, but said he didn’t consider his actions anything special.

“I feel really funny about this because I just helped a little girl,” Mr.
Soroka said.

Meranda Gaffney, a sixth-grader, was walking home along Wendover Road
Oct. 31 when, she told police, a man in a white van grabbed her by the
arm. Meranda broke free from the man and ran, just as school officials
had urged students to do over the school loudspeaker days before.

Shaking and distraught but recognizing Mr. Soroka as a familiar and
friendly face, Meranda flagged him down. With the help of a neighborhood
resident who allowed him to use the phone, Mr. Soroka called 911 and gave
a description of the vehicle the would-be abductor was driving.

Richard Daniel Bassett, 68, of 7509 Pillsbury Place in Glen Burnie, was
pulled over by police soon afterward and charged with attempted
kidnapping and assault. He was being held at the Jennifer Road Detention
Center in Annapolis yesterday pending trial.

Having seen Meranda in the neighborhood many times before and knowing she
is usually somewhat shy, Mr. Soroka quickly realized something was very
wrong that day.

“She was scared to death,” he said.

Meranda and her family attended yesterday’s recognition ceremony, along
with several postal, school and police officials who showered Mr. Soroka
with thanks and accolades. Mr. Soroka received print photos from Glen
Burnie Postmaster Tony Henson, as well as a congressional citation from
Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Baltimore.

“There are people who would not have done what you did,” county Police
Chief Thomas Shanahan told Mr. Soroka.

The most important recognition the Pasadena resident received, however,
was from Meranda.

Just days after the incident she gave him a small silver American Eagle
coin – or “medal,” as she calls it. Her father, Kevin Gaffney, said his
daughter saw it in a store and wanted to make sure Mr. Soroka got it as a
token of her appreciation.

“That’s the one that means something to me,” Mr. Soroka said, pulling the
coin from the breast pocket of his uniform.

Meranda said she got the gift “to let him know he was a hero.”

“That day, he was a hero to me,” she said.

Copyright © 2005 The Capital, Annapolis, Md.

Leave a Reply