By: Sharon Aron Baron
A family alleges a woman slapped their child who didn’t place her hand over her heart during the National Anthem as well as accusing her of not being an American citizen while she volunteered at a City-sponsored 9/11 Remembrance race on Saturday.
Rachel Gonzalez-Howard is a second generation Mexican-American who said she is very patriotic. Every year, she is the head volunteer for the 5k event along with her 11 year-old daughter, Jessica, who gives out water to the finishers and medals and T-shirts to the winners.
“My daughter loves to volunteer,” said Howard. “You can usually find us at 5k’s because my husband, her father, is a runner.
This year, Jessica was up at 4:30 a.m. excited for it to begin. Since it was the 15th year 9/11 Remembrance 5K, they spent extra time coordinating their red, white and blue outfits and Jessica wore her American flag shaped owl shirt.
As the National Anthem started, Howard was standing in front of both her daughter and her husband. When the song was over, she turned and saw Jessica crying and asked what was wrong.
“That lady next to me yelled at me because I didn’t have my hand on my heart,” she said and added, “First she asked me if I was a citizen of the United States, then she yelled at me and kept yelling for being disrespectful.”
“I didn’t get it,” said Howard. “Disrespectful, for just standing there? I kept my cool, but seeing my child cry because of someone yelling at her was a bit much.”
Howard walked over to the woman and reminded her that this was this wasn’t a Communist country.
“If my daughter wants to sit down, kneel or show total lack of respect, she can because this is a country where men and women fought for our freedom. However, my daughter was showing respect – as she was taught.”
Howard walked away to calm herself down, but later Jessica confessed to her mother that the woman slapped her arm “really hard,” then asked her those questions.
“I went back to confront the woman, but that’s when my husband stopped me knowing that I would get myself into trouble. That’s when he went to the officer that was there for the race.”
Her husband spoke to a Coral Springs Police Officer on duty who said he was going to speak to with the race director. But it was too late. The woman was gone.
They do know this: the woman, 75, volunteered at the raffle table, was wearing full makeup, a nice hairstyle with highlights. Her daughter, also a volunteer, in her 50’s later approached Howard.
“She apologized for her mother and kept saying ‘she’s 75’ and that she should be excused for that.”
Race Director Kelle Burke approached the family and immediately apologized to Jessica which meant a lot to them, she said.
“Again I’m just so frustrated this happened, especially to my family. I mean come on, we are at a 5k honoring the people and everyone that was affected by the events of 9/11 – volunteering.”