Fourteen-month-old Darlin Daneri was too young to understand and too preoccupied with his bowl of cheese doodles to pay attention to the group of family and friends hailing him Monday afternoon as "El Sobreviviente."
It means "the survivor" in their native Spanish.
And one day he would understand that he survived because his mother, they believe, pushed his stroller from harm's way before she herself was struck and killed by a truck on Sunday as she tried to cross the street of a busy Baltimore County intersection.
Mavi Moreno Maldonado, 17, of the 3200 block of E. Baltimore St., was identified by police Monday as the victim of the pedestrian accident near the entrance of the Centre at Golden Ring shopping mall on Sunday.
A preliminary investigation determined that she was struck by a 1997 Ford F250 pickup truck traveling eastbound on Philadelphia Road just as she reached the sidewalk curb, Baltimore County police said.
Darlin was not struck or injured, although police said they could not confirm whether Maldonado or the force of the accident pushed his stroller out of harm's way.
But Maldonado's family said it was in her nature to be protective of her son. She loved to buy him outfits, and in fact was returning home from a day of shopping for baby clothes.
"She was serious," said the boy's father, Victor Jeovani Dubon, as he stared at his son. "She was serious about the baby."
Friends and family say they are sure Maldonado saved her son.
"She's a hero, she pushed him out of the way," said Luis Dubon, who identified himself as a family friend although he shares a name with the boy's father, as he consoled the toddler's tearful father at the family's home Monday afternoon.
Victor Dubon reported Maldonado and Darlin missing Sunday evening after the pair did not return home from a trip to Walmart at the shopping center. He checked in with Baltimore City police throughout the night to see if there were any updates on the two.
In the early hours of Monday morning, he received word of an accident involving a woman and a stroller, he said. His fears were confirmed. He was reunited with his son at Maryland Shock Trauma Center after the toddler was evaluated and kept overnight.
"He changed when he saw the baby," Luis Dubon said of the reunion of the father and son.
The driver of the truck, Wayne Cataldi, 45, of the 1400 block of Galena Road, in Essex, did stop to aid Maldonado, police said.
Baltimore County police are still investigating the cause of the accident. Further information was not available Monday night. Charges against Cataldi are pending completion of the investigation.
On Monday, a pedestrian who made the trek from a bus stop at the intersection of Philadelphia Road and Interstate 695, to the entrance of the shopping center, attested to the fact that pedestrians and motorists have to be wary of the intersection.
"It's like a science," said Justin Williams, 23. "You really have to calculate your timing."
Maldonado is a native of Mexico and has been in Baltimore for about two years, her family said. She was a stay-at-home mother. Dubon, a native of Honduras, has been in Baltimore for three years, and works as a laborer.