Much of the time, when a tragedy strikes, those who bare witness to it freeze. This is a common response referred to as the “bystander effect.” It could be spurred from any number of things: fear of making something worse, uncertainty as to what to do, or certainty that someone else has or will jumped to help.
The bystander effect is not something 11-year-old Davyon Johnson experiences. Davyon Johnson is your average middle schooler– he loves wrestling, basketball, RC Cars, and Fortnite—but when he sees another person in harm’s way, he jumps into action. It’s how he saved the lives of others on two separate occasions on the same day.
It started on the morning of December 9 at school. A seventh-grade classmate opened his water bottle with his teeth. In doing so, he accidentally dislodged the bottle’s cork, which slipped down his throat. Davyon Johnson was at the water fountain nearby when he heard the classmate manage between gasps, “I’m choking.”
Thankfully, Johnson knew exactly what to do. He’s always been inspired by his uncle, Wendell Johnson, who is an emergency medical technician. This is what led him to learn the Heimlich maneuver on YouTube, which he swiftly employed on his classmate. The method worked, and he stayed by his classmate’s side until emergency services took the classmate away.
Davyon Johnson. Credit: The Recent Times
“He’s always been there to help, whenever he can,” his mother, Latoya Johnson says. “He’s just still the same kid. It’s not like it’s made him any more or any less.”
The school day went on as usual—studies, and then wrestling practice. Afterwards, Davyon and Latoya Johnson got ready for the evening’s church service. As they were on their way, Latoya Johnson saw smoke leaving a house, but didn’t think anything of it. It was her son who said, “No mom, it’s a house on fire.”
They turned around, and sure enough, he was right. His mother saw a small fire lapping up the back of the house, smelled smoke. She parked in front and honked to alert the family, but no one left the home. As she dialed 911, her son jumped out of the car and ran to the front door. He knocked frantically until those inside came outside. Upon realizing what was happening, they rushed out, unknowingly leaving their elderly relative who struggled to escape with her walker.
Once more, Davyon Johnson took it upon himself to help. He escorted the elderly woman out of the home and to safety.
When asked why Johnson did what he did, he said it was simply the right thing to do. He had a model for this behavior a few years prior when his father, Willie James Logan, walked into a burning apartment complex to make sure everyone inside was safely out. Tragically, his father died of COVID-19 in August, though it is clear he was with Davyon on this day.
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The people of Muskogee, Oklahoma were rightfully floored by the boy’s act of valor. At his school, he was honored with a pizza party. Where most children would be floored by this, Johnson wasn’t sure he deserved the accolades.
“He said to me, ‘I don’t want everyone to pay attention to me. I kind of did what I was supposed to do,” his principal, Latrica Dawkins, says, “I don’t think he really internalized the importance of the feat he did.”
But his tributes didn’t stop there. The Muskogee Police department and County Sheriff’s Office presented Johnson with a certificate that denoted him as an honorary member of their force. The town mayor went a step further. Mayor Marlon J. Coleman named December 10 “Davyon Johnson Day” and later presented him with the keys to the city.
“He sends a clear message to the people of Muskogee that this represents the type of people we really are,” Mayor Coleman says. “He was very heroic. He was very selfless. He did it almost as part of his natural personality. It wasn’t taught. It’s just who he is as a person. For us, it makes us proud that we have those type of young people in our community.”
Davyon Johnson isn’t focused on his past heroics, however. He’s looking towards his future of being an emergency medical worker, or maybe a doctor. Closer than that, he’s looking towards his next wrestling match.
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