Sullivan County Democrat
Callicoon, New York
March 1, 2013 Issue
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Anya Tikka | Democrat

Areli Diaz in the cafeteria surrounded by her mom and school personnel. From the left, mom Monica Diaz, Fallsburg Superintendent of Schools Ivan Katz, Cafeteria Supervisor Brenda O’Neill (Margaret Benizzi was sick on the day of the photo), and Cosor CS Principal Mary Kate Stinehour.

Tragedy averted in school cafeteria

By Anya Tikka
FALLSBURG — Areli Diaz, an eight-year-old second grader at the Benjamin Cosor Elementary School in Fallsburg, had a fright in early December in the cafeteria as she was eating her lunch.
A meatball got stuck in her throat, and she couldn’t breathe. Luckily for Areli, Margaret Benizzi, one of the cafeteria monitors, was sitting sit directly opposite her. When Benizzi noticed Areli was in distress and realized the child was choking, she sprang into action, moved around the table, and performed the Heimlich maneuver. The meatball came flying out, and Areli could breathe again. Benizzi’s quick action had saved her life.
“I’m still a little scared to eat,” said Areli on Friday, although she added she was okay. She also said Benizzi was one of her favorite persons in the school now. Her mom, Monica Diaz, smiled, and said nothing like the choking had ever happened before.
Fallsburg Central School District’s Superintendent Ivan Katz added he is very proud of Benizzi's actions, and as a result she got an invite to the Board of Education meeting on January 4 where she received a STAR or Fallsburg Central School District Staff/Teacher Award for her quick thinking and life-saving action.

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