NASH COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - What started out as a completely normal family dinner in early May soon turned into a test of skill and bravery for one Nash County student.
When gunshots flew across a Chili’s restaurant in Rocky Mount on May 6th, 17-year-old Mariah Poland says she did what most people couldn’t: she sprung into action to save a life.
Poland already juggles a lot on her plate.
She has a job, goes to church, takes college classes, and is graduating in just a couple of days from Southern Nash High School.
And Poland has a dream: to be a nurse and help take care of other people.
“Even the most simple things as brushing your teeth and brushing your hair... a lot of people can’t do that,” Poland said. “They can’t take care of themselves so they have to have someone there for them to do it.”
Poland enrolled in a nursing fundamentals class throughout high school where she practiced bedside manners and learned how to perform CPR.
“When we started clinicals, I realized maybe that was what I needed to do: become a nurse and take care of people,” Poland said.
Yet it wasn’t at a hospital or in a college classroom where Poland says her skills were put to the test. It was at a family dinner spot in Chili’s.
“I sat down and started eating my cheeseburger and I hear this loud noise,” Poland recounted. “It literally sounded like someone had threw a plate across the restaurant and it just shattered on the floor. And there was just a girl standing there holding a gun, pointed at the lady that was bleeding out on the floor.”
Police say the shooter was Nytica Battle. She has since been charged with first-degree murder among other charges.
A stray bullet hit a teenage Chili’s employee. He was able to make it to the back kitchen, and once the scene was safe, Poland says knew that was where she needed to go.
“I couldn’t find a first aid kit or anything so I grabbed some gloves out of the kitchen and I grabbed some towels,” Poland remembered. “I put the towels on his leg and held a lot of pressure up there for like ten minutes. I had his belt wrapped around it.”
The boy was hospitalized and has since recovered.
Now, the graduating senior is focused on what’s next. She has applied for a patient services assistant job at Nash General.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to go ahead and get my foot in the hospital,” Poland said.
First though, Poland will head to high school graduation. She is a part of the Pirate Promise program that will allow her to start classes at Nash Community College and transfer to East Carolina University to pursue nursing.
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