North Carolina police officer Charles Ziegler was off duty last week, working at his side job doing security for a local church, when he noticed a mother pushing her child’s stroller in the rain and offered to give her a lift.
By 3 p.m. that afternoon, he was an Internet celebrity.
Ziegler found himself the center of attention when a photo of his kind act was posted to Twitter by Ed McNeal, the director of marketing and communications for the city of Winston-Salem. It was a cold and rainy day, and McNeal was impressed by the officer's thoughtful gesture.
He wasn’t the only one: Within a few hours of McNeal’s tweet, the story had gone viral. A local news station picked up the story, and interest exploded. Since then, Ziegler can’t believe how far his story has spread: he’s been getting phone calls, texts, and Facebook messages from friends and family since the picture went online last Tuesday.
“My phone just blew up Wednesday night,” Ziegler told reporters. “Last night, I got a text message from someone I go to church with and she said I made the news in England.”
While many have praised him for his good deed, he’s the last one to use the word “hero.” He says the moment he’s being praised for was just an average day, as he’s at the church many mornings while parents drop their kids off at the daycare.
“I am not trying to belittle anyone, but I think this story’s been made more than it actually is,” he said. “It’s me giving a lady and her child a ride. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal…Cops across the state and across the nation, they do stuff like this all the time.”
“I’m not surprised at all,” Ziegler’s patrol sergeant, John Coppley, told reporters of the attention the act of kindness has received. “Charlie’s a good guy. [Police officers] do a lot of good stuff, and he helped bring it into the light.”
And what about the other protagonist in this story, the mother out with her child in the rain? Ziegler says he saw her the next morning at church, just the same as every other day.
“We haven’t talked about the story,” he says. “Just the normal ‘Hi, how you’re doing?’"