NORTH RICHLAND HILLS -- Stephanie Hines of Bedford was driving to a store with her two children when she spotted the 11-year-old boy, barefoot and wearing only basketball shorts, standing along the Northeast Loop 820 access road east of Grapevine Highway.
"It was late January, and the fact that he was only in a pair of shorts I thought was very odd because it was still cold outside," said Hines, 36.
Hines stopped her car in the middle of the road, turned on the hazard lights and rolled down the passenger-side window, asking the boy whether he was OK and where his parents were. He didn't answer.
"He just kind of smiled at me, walked behind my car and proceeded to cross the access road and climb over the concrete barrier," Hines said. "At that moment I didn't know what his intentions were so my mom mode kicked in and I found my cellphone, called 911 and told them where I was and what was going on."
Never miss a local story.
When the boy -- an autistic child who had been reported missing from a nearby motel minutes earlier -- ventured onto the freeway, Hines gave chase.
At the same time, she provided the dispatcher updates on the boy's whereabouts until breathlessly reporting, "I got him."
"We were cheering in dispatch," said A.J. Myers, the North Richland Hills police dispatcher who took Hines' call that Jan. 22 evening. "We were jumping up and down and just cheering with elation because of how the situation turned out."
For her actions, Hines was honored Tuesday morning by North Texas 911 administrators at a news conference in North Richland Hills.
"She's an excellent example of how to use 911 to its fullest capability and certainly deserves the title of hero," said Alisa Simmons, a spokeswoman with the Tarrant County 911 District.
Minutes before receiving Hines' call, Myers fielded the 911 call from the boy's mother, who said he had disappeared from a Budget Inn where the family was staying.
"She was extremely frantic. She was a very panicked mother," Myers recalled. "She said, 'I just turned my back for a second and he slipped out.' She said, 'I can't find him.' She was in tears."
Myers said officers were dispatched to look for the child when Hines called.
"Oh my God! There's a little boy trying to cross the freeway right here," Hines told Myers. She told the dispatcher that she was on the access road in front of the Allen Samuels Dodge dealership.
As her own children -- 10-year-old Brianna and 7-year-old Ethan -- waited anxiously in her running car, Hines took off after the boy.
"We were kind of scared because we didn't want her to get run over," Brianna said
Pursuit in traffic
As Hines tried to get the child's attention, the boy scrambled over two concrete barriers, crossed an on-ramp and stood briefly between the on-ramp and Loop 820's eastbound lanes, watching traffic pass.
She said he then went back across the on-ramp and ran along the highway's shoulder.
"Come here. Come here, baby," Hines can be heard saying on the 911 tape, trying to coax the child just before catching him. Hines said she then carried the boy back to her car where an officer was waiting.
Myers repeatedly praises Hines during the 911 call.
"You are wonderful. I can't tell you that enough," Myers said. "I can't tell you how much of a hug I want to give you right now."
During Tuesday's news conference, Myers finally delivered on that hug and gave Hines a Citizen in Action award.
"I'm honored because this situation ... could have gone so bad," Myers said. "Stephanie was such an angel that day. She had the biggest wings and she actually took it upon herself, put herself in danger, and saved that child."
Hines said she doesn't consider herself a hero -- just a mom.
"If it was my kid out there, I would expect someone else to do the same thing," she said.
Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655