(Left to right) Sgt. Joseph Cavestany, officer Christopher Aboyte, Robert Sherock and Damian Castro are awarded a certificate for their bravery by Tony Cárdenas for the Jan. 9 train crash. (Photo by Gabriel Arizon)

Los Angeles officials and Montague Charter Academy faculty members came together to host an event to honor the four officers who saved a downed pilot from being struck by a train earlier this month.

“We are delighted to host a ceremony for LAPD heroes Sgt. Jospeh Cavestany, officers Robert Sherock, Damian Castro and Christopher Aboyte,” said Jose D. Salas, executive director and principal of Montague Charter Academy in Arleta, via telephone.

“Our fifth-graders present today will have the unique opportunity to be up close with real heroes. We do not need to go outside of our Pacoima community to find real heroes.”

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On Jan. 9, four LAPD officers saved pilot Mark Jenkins from being struck by a train after his plane crashed on a train crossing near Whiteman Airport.

After hearing about the accident, Assistant Principal Imelda Madrid knew she wanted to do something to honor the officers’ actions. Soon after students returned to school on Jan. 11, she began planning to host the event.

“I just thought I needed to take advantage of a situation that happened in our community, and that we needed to pull together to teach the kids a few things, “ Madrid said.

Gathering in a small courtyard around 11 a.m., the fifth-grade students and faculty members assembled as the four officers and Congressman Tony Cárdenas arrived. After the students sang “America the Beautiful,” Cárdenas took the stage and spoke about growing up in the area, then, presented certificates to each of the officers for their actions.

“These officers are heroes every single day,” Cárdenas said, “because when they put on the badge, they don’t know what’s in store for them, but they are willing to do whatever they have to do to save another life.”

After receiving certificates from Cárdenas, as well as a “thank you” from the academy’s Student Senate, the officers posed for pictures with both students and faculty. The officers said being the center of attention was a unique experience, and one they certainly did not expect. 

“After the whole incident, we were gonna go back to work and do our routine, but we didn’t realize the magnitude of that–it is different,” Castro said. “I’d say this is probably scarier than pulling the guy out of the plane.”

For teacher Cynthia Ochoa’s class, the experience helped to ease trepidations some had felt about police.

“In the beginning of the year, we talked about Black Lives Matter and American history … and sometimes officers get a bad rap,” Ochoa said. “A lot of my kids were kind of nervous about coming out to talk to them … [and now] they’re so excited. Now they want to talk and now they’re okay with them.”