Farewell, and Thanks, to a Man Who Kept Kids Safe

From the corner of West 25th Street in Manhattan, it takes 34 steps to cross 10th Avenue, more if it is a kindergartner dawdling, sippy cup in hand, to the private school on the other side. To get to Avenues of the World School by crossing West 25th Street takes only 16 steps, even fewer if it is a frantic 12th grader bounding to be on time for first period.

Five days a week, in the bright early mornings of September and the creeping twilight of February afternoons, Richard Henderson, crossing guard, oversaw those arrivals, holding hands, bumping fists, hollering at traffic, picking up dropped homework.

“My man, Wilder,” he would call out to a 4-year-old boy.

“Spider-Man,” he’d chuckle at the preschooler clutching for dear life a figurine of his favorite superhero.

“Miss Seattle,” he’d address a third-grade girl, a new student from the West Coast who loyally wore a Seahawks cap every day.

Henderson, known as Richie, was a son of East New York, raised on public assistance by a single mother who died of cancer when Richie was just a teenager. He had no high school diploma nor even a general equivalency degree, but he had a good family and a job he loved as a crossing guard at a $65,850-a-year private school.

Every school day at the corner of 10th and 25th, children of great privilege were given over, for a fleeting few seconds, to the protection of a man of great warmth and responsibility. Henderson managed the flow of Ubers dropping off children and made sure the boys let the girls play football with them during recess.

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