Sat04182015

News

Car breaks through glass door, closes Trader Joe’s for the day

Car breaks through glass door, closes Trader Joe’s for the day

Alicia Castro/Town Crier
Trader Joe's employees survey the damage after a car smashed through the glass doorway earlier today.

Trader Joe’s on Homestead Road is closed for the remainder of the day (April 17) after a car barreled through the glas...

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Schools

Pinewood student writes book about living with autism

Pinewood student writes book about living with autism


Traci Newell/Town Crier
Pinewood School senior Georgia Lyon wrote and illustrated “How to Be Human: Diary of an Autistic Girl” in 2013.

Although first published under a pseudonym, Pinewood School student Georgia Lyon is stepping out to ...

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Community

Sale offers opportunity to 'discover' jewels, fight cancer

Sale offers opportunity to 'discover' jewels, fight cancer

Volunteers and staff at the American Cancer Society's Discovery Shop in downtown Los Altos urge shoppers to "Be A Gem, Buy A Jewel" during the shop's special sale this Friday (April 17) and Saturday (April 18).

The sale is an opportunity to find Mot...

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Comment

Editorial: Let's assume not to presume

Two recent downtown Los Altos stories offer lessons in the drawbacks of jumping to conclusions.

A few months back, the Town Crier published an article on Ladera Autoworks on First Street closing its doors. That part was true, but the reason was not....

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Special Sections

Fitness focus: No holds barred for Los Altos sisters

Fitness focus: No holds barred for Los Altos sisters


Photos Courtesy of Barre 3
Gillian Brotherson, kneeling at left, guides studio instructors through a workout at barre3 Los Altos.

Health is all about balance. That’s what two Los Altos natives learned as they navigated work, motherhood and welln...

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Business

Steinway gallery brings pianos, musicians to downtown Los Altos

Steinway gallery brings pianos, musicians to downtown Los Altos


Alicia Castro/Town Crier
Chrissy Huang, manager of Steinway Piano Gallery in Los Altos, showcases Steinway & Sons’ signature instruments. The gallery plans to host concerts with performers tickling the ivories.

A new downtown Los Altos bus...

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Books

'Pope Joan' Book weaves tale around legend of female pontiff

'Pope Joan' Book weaves tale around legend of female pontiff


The idea that there may have a female pope at one time in history has generated much speculation throughout the centuries. “Pope Joan” (Crown, 1996) by Donna Woolfolk Cross, does not answer the question; rather, the author has created a detai...

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People

GREG STAHLER

GREG STAHLER

Greg Stahler died unexpecdly in his home in Belmont on March 26, 2015. (He was born in Mountain View on June 23, 1972). He will really be missed by three beautiful young children, Haley 7, Hannah 5, and Tyler 3, and his wife Kathryn. He will also b...

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Travel

Cuba libre: Local residents join mad rush of travelers

Cuba libre: Local residents join mad rush of travelers


Natalie Elefant/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos resident Natalie Elefant noted the vibrant street performances as a traveler in Cuba.

The U.S. restored diplomatic relations with Cuba late last year, enabling Americans to import $100 worth of cig...

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Stepping Out

'Those Darn Squirrels' invading Mountain View

'Those Darn Squirrels' invading Mountain View


Courtesy of Lyn Flaim Healy/ Spotlight Moments Photography
Noelle Merino stars in Peninsula Youth Theatre’s “Those Darn Squirrels.”

The Peninsula Youth Theatre’s world premiere adaptation of “Those Darn Squirrels” is scheduled Friday and Saturda...

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Spiritual Life

Magazine

Food for thought: Hidden Villa programs offer teens training in sustainability on the farm

Food for thought: Hidden Villa programs offer teens training in sustainability on the farm


/Town Crier It’s not all cute and cuddly for teens participating in the eight-week Animal Husbandry Apprenticeship program at Hidden Villa in Los Altos Hills. Mia Mosing of Palo Alto, left, and Sophia Jackson of Los Altos clean the pigpens – one of...

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Inside Mountain View

Home for disabled youth yields greener pastures

Home for disabled youth yields greener pastures


Alicia Castro/Town Crier
Green Pastures staff member JP Mercada, below right, helps Tommy, who lives at the group home, sort through papers and organize his room.

Tucked in the corner of a quiet residential cul-de-sac in Mountain View, Green Pastur...

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Mountain View resident receives recognition for courageous actions 57 years later


Above Photo by Niuniu Teo/Town Crier; Below Left Courtesy of Juan C. Aranda Jr.; Below right by Claudia Cruz/MV Patch

Juan C. Aranda Jr.’s heroic act has finally resurfaced after more than half a century.

The longtime Mountain View resident was scheduled to receive the Air Force Commendation Medal Monday, presented by U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo in a ceremony at Moffett Federal Airfield.

Commendation, however, was the last thing on Aranda’s mind 57 years ago, when he threw himself into the swirling floodwater with nothing but a rope in hand.

Thoughts of his young wife and baby daughter, his deserted station in the air-to-ground communications back at his military base and his own well-being were all superseded by the sight of a father and his three sons desperately clinging to a palm tree, only minutes to spare before tumbling into the roiling water below.

Although he probably wasn’t aware at the time, Aranda had been preparing for that moment his entire life. From swimming for crabs as a child in Puerto Rico to learning how to lifeguard when he served as a communications specialist at Wheelus Air Base in Libya, the young airman was the necessary combination of reckless, fearless and prepared.

The serendipitous convergence of events on that fateful night in Puerto Rico resulted in an opportunity for the small-town islander to rise to the occasion, risking his life to save four others in the stormy wrath of Hurricane Betsy, which had already raged for four days, killing nine people and wreaking more than $25 million in property damage in Puerto Rico alone.

Breaking curfew

Sitting comfortably on his porch in Mountain View on a recent sunny afternoon, Aranda, now 78, recounted the night’s events.

When Betsy struck, he was serving in the U.S. Air Force, stationed at Ramey Air Force Base in Puerto Rico. He decided to break curfew to check on his wife and 6-month-old daughter, who were living approximately 10 miles from the base.

After wading through roughly a mile of chest-deep water against wind gusts of up to 115 mph, he reached his house and found it safely above the floodwaters, which were receding.

Soon after his reunion with his family, however, townspeople from the village came calling for help.

“They don’t have firefighters or a fire station. They have a place where you get buckets, and everybody helps,” Aranda said. “That’s the way it works.”

Aranda followed the volunteers to the rushing creek, where he found the father and his sons, minutes from drowning.

“They had hypothermia, they had insects all over them, they were scared,” Aranda said. “There was nothing in sight. You knew they would drop off (into the water) eventually.”

Aranda was a good swimmer, and he was the lightest of the rescue group. His next plan of action came naturally to him – he jumped in.

The instant he hit the water, the current swept him downstream at breakneck speed. Miraculously, he managed to grab hold of the tree on the first try.

“I don’t know how I got there, but I got there,” he said. “I don’t know if the father pulled me up by my hair, or if I caught a branch, but all of a sudden, I was there.”

The father gave the young airman a look of astonished gratitude.

“You can’t describe that look,” Aranda said.

They worked together, easing the boys carefully down the rope, safely to the other side, and then crossed over themselves. At that point, they were all freezing.

Aranda recalled having the first and last cup of coffee of his life at the man’s house before he returned to the base. He spent the night in detention for breaking curfew.

The call

For nearly half a century, Aranda sat quietly on the events of that night, not expecting anything to come of his heroic act. He was simply relieved to dodge a court martial or dishonorable discharge for breaking curfew.

“I just laid low and didn’t leave base. I was only concerned with saving my own butt,” he said with a laugh. “For months, I didn’t hear nothing from nobody.”

After serving two consecutive four-year terms in the armed forces, he settled in Mountain View in 1985.

Aranda embraced his new community, quickly becoming involved as a willing volunteer and a friendly neighbor.

He is known around town as a salsa instructor, a Spanish teacher and a dedicated RotaCare volunteer.

He sat on the board of the Mountain View Whisman School District, and his house serves as a day care for local children, who affectionately call him “Papa Juan.” People have told him repeatedly to run for mayor – he’s considering it.

“I’m not the type to be sitting down,” he said modestly.

Long after Aranda had flourished in the sanctuary of citizenship, Col. Dave Hafid learned of Aranda’s brash burst of bravery over a few drinks at a bar. The colonel immediately took it upon himself to write a letter on Aranda’s behalf, informing authorities of his heroism.

“It made my day, but I just put the thought away, in the back of my head,” Aranda said. “I didn’t expect anything to come out of it.”

Then, on April 12, 2012, he received a call from Eshoo, who represents Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View.

“I heard on the message someone say, ‘This is Congresswoman Anna Eshoo for Juan C. Aranda Jr.,’” Aranda recalled. “I was flabbergasted. I had waited for this moment for so long, and now I didn’t know how to react. I just remember thinking, ‘Nobody ever calls me that.’”

Although Aranda said he is humbled by and grateful for the public recognition of his act, he still wouldn’t call himself a hero.

“Policemen, firefighters – they’re heroes,” he said. “I don’t consider myself a hero. I was trained, I was a good swimmer and I didn’t think about the consequences. ... My reward was the feeling of his arm when I finally grabbed ahold of it. My reward was the look in his eyes.”

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