Former Blue Earth resident receives heroic recognition
Last April 12 started out as a pretty ordinary day for Linda (Hougan) Larson, of Apple Valley, and formerly of Blue Earth.
But it would end up as an extraordinary day, one that Larson will never, ever forget.
“It was a Friday, and I only work a half day on Fridays,” Larson, who works as a physical therapist at Fairview in Burnsville, recalls. “It was cold and snowy out, so I checked my schedule to see what was going on.”
All of her appointments had cancelled, so she called her boss and said she didn’t really need to be there so she would take the day off.
She headed off to the Mall of America to take a shirt back for her mother, Jean Hougan, who lives in Blue Earth.
“It was really quiet at the mall, really quiet for a Friday morning, but I guess it was the weather,” she says. “I ran into a friend who was walking in the mall, and we started talking.”
They had talked for about 10 minutes when all of a sudden they heard screaming, from not very far away.
“I took off on a dead run towards the screaming,” Larson says. “I really wasn’t sure what was going on, and I thought about a possible shooting, but I hadn’t heard any shots.”
She happened to look over the railing and saw a child lying on the floor below.
“I flew down the stairs and nobody was there, everyone seemed frozen, so I ran over to him and started to assess the situation,” she recalls. “I really didn’t know what had happened to him at that time, but I remember thinking, did he fall, and how could that happen.”
Larson was the first one there and was checking for injuries and a pulse and starting CPR, when finally others arrived, including two nurses who were able to help continue with CPR.
Larson started calling out, asking if anyone had called 911, as she had not had time to do so herself. It turned out that five people had already called it in.
“It really did not take long for the EMTs to show up, and I helped them get the oxygen out, things like that,” she says. “But then they were able to take over.”
Security and police also arrived and kept people away from the scene. Larson went over to a woman she figured was the boy’s mother and tried to calm her down, but there was no calming her down, Larson says.
“She was pretty hysterical. I still didn’t know what had actually happened,” Larson says. “I didn’t find out until later that a man had picked up this little boy, Landen, and thrown him over the third floor railing. He had not fallen. I could not believe that. It was shocking to hear.”
Larson stayed on the scene for quite a while. She says it was strange to have the police put up crime scene tape around the area and to be on the inside of it, not outside.
“I had to wait and be interviewed by detectives about what I had heard, seen and done,” she says. “I told them I just happened to be the first one to get to little Landen, but others helped save him, too, many others.”
She says the police and paramedics are the real heroes, not her. She just happened to be there.
But, a couple of weeks ago, Larson received a letter from the Bloomington Police Department.
“I thought it might be that they no longer needed any more information about the incident, because the case was over,” she says. “But, it wasn’t that. They wanted me to come to a special ceremony and receive a commendation medal for what I did at the incident at the Mall of America.”
That ceremony was held on Thursday evening, June 6, at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Bloomington. Larson, along with all the others who helped out during the tragedy at the Mall that April day, were honored and recognized for what they did.
Larson says since the incident at the Mall of America, she has thought a lot about how she ended up being there that day, and was right where it happened.
“I probably should have been at work, on a Friday, but I took it off,” she says. “I probably would have been in a store and not seen or heard anything, except for running into my friend.”
And then there is the fact that just a month earlier, in March, she had taken a CPR class as part of her work.
“But that doesn’t prepare you for actually being somewhere you need to use it,” she says. “I just said a little prayer and hoped what I was doing would work.”
Since then, Larson says she has thought a lot about her own family. She and her husband, Terry, who grew up in the area, have three children, all now adults. And, they have a 3-year-old grandchild.
“All I could think of the rest of that day and all that weekend was how I would feel if it had been my child or grandchild,” she says. “It would be hard to deal with.”
She also doesn’t think of herself as a hero.
“I’m not the type of person who says ‘hey, look at what I did,'” she says. “I just did what I did because I felt I should try and help, and not hang back. There were many others there who were the heroes. The paramedics, those two nurses, the police who chased and caught the guy. Everybody else should get the kudos.
“I just believe God put me there at that time to help out, and I am glad I could do just that.”