The evening of President’s Day, Feb. 18, Saleem was driving his bus north on NW 155th Street and 27th Avenue when he saw a car go into a canal. He immediately and safely stopped the bus and waded into the water to rescue the occupants – a man in his 20s, his sister and his one-year-old son.
“I got into the water and the man threw me his son. I grabbed his son, made sure he was safe, extended my arm and said, ‘I can take you guys, too.’ I was still able to stand. So, I reached my hand out, he grabbed her with one hand and mine with the other and I was able to pull them out,” Saleem recalled. “I wasn’t thinking. It was like an out-of-body experience. It was like my instincts had taken over.
“It felt awesome, because sometimes you see this type of situation and some people don’t make it out. Most of the time you hear about this stuff, it doesn’t turn out for the better – you could get entangled in seaweed or dragged down by something,” he continued. “To know everyone made it out okay, I feel blessed and grateful.”
On March 5, he was honored in a ceremony by Miami-Dade County.
Saleem talked about the importance of having a living, breathing person operate a bus.
“For situations like this, it’s the human experience that is paramount,” he continued. “It’s more than just driving a bus: There’s an emotional and physical connection; a responsibility that comes with being behind the wheel.
“We have to recreate the connection we once shared before everyone had cell phones. We have to start looking out for one another better,” Saleem said, noting that if he had pulled out his phone to film the car the in canal instead of pulling over, lives could have been lost.
“Stop trying to be the first one recording breaking news and get back to doing what’s right,” he advised.