COVINGTON, Ky. January 26 2024— A Covington middle school security guard is being honored for his heroic action in saving the life of a student who needed help.
While Marcus Behanan said he was just doing his job, eighth-grader Brayden Smith said he’s grateful he saw a familiar face in a time of need.
There was nothing inherently wrong with the chicken and rice Smith ate for lunch in early December at Holmes Middle School in Covington, but he said it didn’t go down smoothly.
“I took a drink of milk, and I couldn’t breathe, so I went up to Marky,” he said.
Behanan, nicknamed “Markie” by students, is highly trusted around the school. Having coached basketball, he has dealt with children for over 30 years.
“I’ve loved kids all my life,” Behanan said. “I try to be a big mentor to show them that the community’s a good community to be in but also that we are here for them as an adult.”
Behanan said the students also help him cope with the recent loss of his father, Marcus Johnson.
“I joke with them every morning, every day to keep them happy,” Behanan said. “Even when my father died, the principal tried to get me to stay home. I told him the only thing that’ll keep me moving is the kids at work. I don’t want to stay in the house and be miserable.”
“Every day, I show up.”
It was a good thing he showed up on Dec. 7, 2023 in particular. Soon after lunch had started, Smith walked up to Behanan in need of help.
“First, I thought he was getting sick,” Behanan said. “The milk came up first, so I started patting him on his back. But then when he put his hands up to his throat, I knew he was choking.”
Behanan said he went straight into the Heimlich maneuver. He wasn’t nervous; he just knew he had to help him get food out of his throat so he could breathe.
“When I knew I didn’t get it the first time, I did it the second time,” he said. “We thought we got part of it out, but then we did it two more times as he got closer to the door … I was happy he was fine. He was able to go home, breathe [and be] back to his normal self.”
Despite initially feeling scared, Smith said he stayed calm in the moment.
“I knew teachers and security guards had training,” he said.
The event has had a lasting impact on Smith.
“I was scared to eat for the first week,” he said. “And what I choked on, I won’t eat that no more. I do eat a lot slower sometimes; at my house, it takes over an hour because I just sit there and eat slow.”
The following week, he was back in school and got to thank the man who had his back.
“I just said, ‘Thanks,’” Smith said. “I mean, it’s a good thing he was there and knew what to do.”
Smith said he chose Behanan as the two were already familiar with each other. In Jan. 2024, the Covington City Commission declared Dec. 7 as “Markie Behanan Day.”
Behanan said his co-workers have taken joy in teasing him about all the attention he’s receiving.
“I don’t feel like a hero; I just feel like I care,” he said. “That’s all it is.”
Behanan’s dad got to see the video of him saving Smith just a week before he died, he said. His sister then sent him a video of him crying.
“That made my day, that he got to see it before he ended up passing away,” Behanan said. “After receiving that, I thought about him, and I almost broke down when I got home. But I had to keep it together.”