Hometown Hero: Aldine's Jayden Payne Honored for Heroics during Tropical Storm Imelda
All Cynthia Payne could do was pray.
On a rainy, September day in Houston as Tropical Storm Imelda pushed through, sitting in the car with her son Jayden in the back seat across the street from Aldine High School, she watched as a car plunged into a ditch full of rushing water.
Next, her 16-year-old son Jayden rushed across the street and dove in to save a mother and her child.
"I knew God had him there for a reason. I told God just use him and give him back," Cynthia said. "That's all I asked. I can't replace him."
When Jayden saw the car head into the water, the junior tight end for Aldine football didn't think. Instead of pulling out his phone to record video – he reacted.
"I was like, I'm just going to run over there and put my life at risk because I felt like their lives were more precious," Jayden told VYPE the day of the storm. "She had her daughter with her. I'd rather save her life and risk mine for that. It was just a moment for me."
Once Jayden got in the water, Vinetta Williams and her 2-year-old daughter were out of the car, but Williams' head was the only one up. Her daughter's was underneath.
"That's when I jumped in and I went behind her, grabbed her by her waist and I pushed her to the grass where she put her daughter," Jayden said. "I pushed her more up on the grass so she could get up on it. That's when I got up."
Sitting at home, due to the floodwaters around his area in Porter that day, Aldine football coach Carl Semler's phone started to buzz.
What was flashing onto his screen were photos of Jayden standing next to high water outside of Aldine High School, holding a little girl in his arms.
The little girl was the daughter of the woman that Payne had helped pull from the water just minutes before.
"Jayden Payne had a win in life that is bigger than North Shore beating Duncanville on the last play of the game," Semler said. "This is a win that eclipses anything that you do on a field or a court. This is what education is all about.
"Jayden Payne is a young man the world needs to know about. There's a lot of stuff going on right now that paints young people in very negative tones. Here at Aldine, we take a lot of pride that young men like Jayden Payne are there putting others ahead of themselves."
Jayden's heroics that day haven't gone unnoticed.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo recognized him for "his heroic actions and commend him for his selflessness" in a proclamation. Harris County Precinct One Commissioner Rodney Ellis honored him with a resolution for his "heroic rescue of a community member".
"It's something that will always play back in my memories," Jayden said. "I have things I can show my children whenever I get older."
Finally, Aldine ISD recognized him for his "support provided to the staff, students and community of Aldine ISD".
On top of those recognitions, Jayden was invited to the Houston Texans' game on September 29 as a VIP guest of quarterback Deshaun Watson.
During pregame warmups, Watson surprised Jayden on the sideline with a bag, which included a signed jersey.
"I was completely shocked, because I wasn't expecting him to be behind me because I was looking at the big screen," Jayden said. "Next thing I know, he came behind me."
Along the way, Cynthia was there by his side watching her son get honored by the city, the Texans and his school district. All very touching for a single mother.
"That's a blessing because I think every parent wants that for their kids," Cynthia said. "Something special to happen for them. It's sad that it took almost a tragedy to do it. But I'm thankful it was him. "He broke a stereotype is what he did. It proves that a single mother can do it. It shows that no matter who you are or how you're raised, could be by a father or a mother, that he took the teachings that were given to him and he ran with it."