updated 06/08/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 06/08/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT
No one knew quite how strong—or brave—until the afternoon of May 15, when Latia's quick thinking may have saved her father's life. Auto detailer Sean Mcclam, 31, had picked up his daughter from school and was driving to a doctor's appointment when the Honda station wagon stopped and began to roll backward. Looking up, Latia saw that Mcclam had passed out. "I had to get him some help," she says.
Shifting into park, the 4'4" Latia pulled Mcclam, 180 lbs., into the passenger seat, moved the driver's seat all the way forward until she could reach the pedals, and took the wheel. Then she drove four blocks through four-lane rush-hour traffic to Howard University Hospital, where she stopped and ran into the emergency entrance for help. "I wasn't scared," insists Latia, whose father has let her steer while in his lap since she was 5.
Mcclam, who was dehydrated and had a 105-degree fever, might have died without the quick action by his daughter, who also calmly asked hospital workers to call her aunt and to park the car properly. Not surprisingly, Latia already has a career goal. "I want to be a firefighter," she says, "so I can save people's lives."