The scanner crackled with the voice of the first emergency responder to the scene.

He was calling for immediate medical assistance for a patient in critical need.

But it was the upsetting background noise that sent a spine-tingling chill across our newsroom as everyone and everything came to a stop.

The sound was a woman sobbing and screaming in the background.

We soon learned why.

A 3-year-old child was down.

A vehicle had hit the little girl in a local parking lot.

The girl quit breathing and the responder lost her pulse.

Then, she gasped, as if struggling for air, and there was a faint pulse again.

We hung on every word, praying and hoping that between the cries in the background and the professional calm of the responder trying his best to perform a rescue, the girl could somehow be saved.

She quit breathing again.

Her pulse stopped.

Soon after, at the hospital, a 3-year-old toddler lay dead.

***

Ken Page, 58, is not a medical doctor, a fire chief or an ambulance driver.

He is the maintenance man at a hotel near where the incident occurred last week.

Ken heard the screaming and thought it was caused by fear from a shooting or stabbing or some other type of crime.

He ran to help, finding instead the little girl lying helpless on the ground.

Ken, determined to do something, heroically began CPR.

"I put my ear on her chest, and I could hear a heartbeat," he said later.

He worried about her tiny legs burning on the hot asphalt.

There was a small box lying there. Inside it was a new toy.

"She was just so excited about that new toy, she just got out of the car and ran," Ken told our reporter, Lindsay Whitehurst, who rushed to the scene to investigate the frightening cries heard over the scanner.

Ken, seeing the girl's vulnerability with her legs on the pavement, used the toy the little girl had so proudly carried to lift her legs off of the heat, resting them back down on the toy.

He waited for help, sitting by the girl's side.

Meanwhile, back in the newsroom, we impatiently awaited Lindsay's first report.

It didn't look good for the girl, we were told, after she was rushed to the hospital.

"I've been through two years in Vietnam, and I never saw anything that touched me like that," Ken shared with Lindsay. "I'm going to see that little face for as long as I live."

She died around 4 p.m.

***

Ken learned how to perform CPR while in the military.

It's hard to say where he first learned compassion and a willingness to use it in trying to save the life of another.

Same for the police officers who responded and agreed to counseling after hearing the screams and securing the scene. Our emergency personnel, from police to fire to medical, so often get overlooked as being human.

We complain because we can't find a cop when we need one, or because the doctor charges too much, or because the paramedics were too slow to get there. Yet, these heroes don't just have a job. They have courage and commitment, and because of such dedication, sometimes there are 3-year-old little girls who do get up and walk away.

This one did not.

The price of non-success is steep.

Paying for it sometimes is more expensive than what most of us can imagine.

But as sad as this story was when it occurred last Friday, there is joy to be found in knowing that because of these trained responders, and because of people like Ken willing to roll up the sleeves and risk getting involved, we can help each other live.

Parents need other parents. No doubt, the loved ones surrounding this little girl are in a time of need, as are the passengers in the vehicle that struck her.

Heroes need heroes. Hopefully someone today will look at one of our heroes in uniform and just say thanks, or perhaps share a friendly wave.

Neighbors need neighbors. Perhaps today, you'll be fortunate enough to bump into your version of Ken who is willing to reach toward you a helping hand, or perhaps you will remember that it's worth the risk for you to extend yours.

Little girls are precious.

This one died in a tragic accident.

It does not mean, however, that we cannot still celebrate life by remembering just how precious life is every day, and how innocence sometimes is not enough to save us from losing it.

There are many more 3-year-old boys and girls out there today who will live.

Let us hope their life will be surrounded by heroes, who daily will teach them why life is so good.

***

All of this reminds me of my favorite magnet at home on the refrigerator.

There is a small daisy blooming to the side, with the saying:

"Life is a gift. That is why we call it the present."

Enjoy your gifts today.

Troy Turner is the editor of The Daily Times. He can be contacted at P.O. Box 450, Farmington, N.M., 87499; or at tturner@daily-times.com.