Our Very Own Phi Sig Samaritan
How a small act of kindness won international acclaim for 'guardian angel' Orianne Greene
February 1, 2010
YOU CAN NO DOUBT STILL RECALL the gut-wrenching scene as it unfolded on TV or those viral videos on Facebook and YouTube long before you even heard the heroine was, in fact, a Phi Sig:
There she was, a tall young woman with long red hair suddenly stepping up to console a sobbing little boy who, in the blink of an eye, found himself standing alone on a train platform while his father was impossibly, inexplicably, unable to exit the train. She stayed right there – the paragon of calm, cool and collected – until father and son were tearfully reunited.
Within hours after a security video of the incident was leaked to the press, it made international headlines – and still, no one knew that the name of the young woman was Orianne “Ori” Greene, that she was a nursing student at Portland State University, and that she was a Phi Sigma Sigma from our Beta Omega Chapter there.
From ordinary to extraordinary
“It all happened so fast,” Orianne says looking back on Nov. 16, a morning which has since changed her life forever. “Up to that point, it had just been a normal, regular day.”
Orianne was heading to chemistry class. Standing on the platform near the train door, she noticed it had suddenly opened and closed too quickly, separating the boy from his dad. Nothing the father could do inside the train would open the door. It started pulling away. He became frantic, as well you might expect.
She motioned to the man through the glass, “I’ll stay here, I’ll stay with him.” And for almost 10 intense minutes, she sat with 3-year-old Aiden Bailey, comforting him as he cried and they waited for his dad, Aaron Bailey, to return. When he did, the father embraced his son and the young woman in a real-life made-for-TV moment that melted hearts, made parents cry with joy over the kindness of a stranger, and inspired countless columnists and bloggers to ask, “Who was that guardian angel?”
For several days, the Portland media were awash with stories asking the public to identify the young woman who, based on Aaron’s recollection, might be called “Oriander” (sort of an inside joke now for friends and family, as it’s become a second nickname for Ori locally). Eventually, one of her brothers saw a story on Facebook and told her, “This is you.”
In fact, it was. “I could hardly believe it,” Orianne says. “I mean, I told my parents about it the day it happened – but it was just in passing. It’s not like I knew there was a camera there. I just gave someone the help they needed. I did what anyone would do.”
That’s not how the rest of the world saw it - literally. As soon as Orianne’s mother, Irene Frost, revealed her “angel’s” name to the media, it cropped up in stories all across the globe, as far away as New Zealand and Europe. All the major news networks, even popular TV news magazines like the Today show and Inside Edition, did stories. She was constantly getting calls for interviews, and was called a "patriot" by Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly. Everywhere, people praised Orianne’s response to a parent’s worst nightmare.
Wrote Elizabeth Hovde, of The Oregonian: “(T)here you were on the TV screen: blurry, grainy, lovely you. I saw you several times Friday night as local newscasts showed that awful moment…. The security video the news station showed again and again made me cry in the middle of the gym I was working out in — not only because the thought of being separated from one's toddler is absolutely overwhelming, but because you were there. And you did everything right. … Like many people, I got weepy because of your goodness. And you made me so grateful for the kindness of strangers.”
Turns out many people shared that powerful sentiment, even though they’d never met Orianne. She suddenly found herself being invited to special events (such as a ceremonial puck drop at a Portland hockey game). A reunion was arranged so the Baileys could thank her, and the media covered it. Perfect strangers would approach her at the post office and gush like schoolkids when meeting her.
Of course, her Beta Omega sisters were elated – and happily reported to anyone and everyone who would listen how typically, wonderfully “Ori” this all was. (Indeed, that’s how we found out about her, too.)
'How you act... matters'
These days, the hullabaloo has died down. Orianne admits it was fun while it lasted, but it’s good for things to get back to normal as “it was all a little crazy” at the time.
“It made me realize at every moment, you never know what could happen or who is watching – and also that how you act in any situation really matters,” she says. “I think, in today’s society, it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of having compassion for other people. But we can’t do that. We have to be there for people when they need us. We need to open the door to opportunities to help others.”
With a life philosophy like that – so quintessentially Phi Sig in every respect – is it any wonder someone created fan T-shirts or a Facebook appreciation society in her name?
In a recent post to that page, Aiden’s father, Adam, wrote: “I vote myself President of the said ‘Oriander’ Appreciation Society. All in favor....”
Here at Phi Sigma Sigma, we offer a resounding “aye.”
NOV. 16 VIDEO CLIP FROM KGW-TV, PORTLAND, ORE.
Orianne Greene graduates from nursing school in spring 2010. Learn more about her on Facebook and her appreciation page.