A Tyler Morning Telegraph good news story and photo about a 9-year-old boy saving a toddler from drowning in the swimming pool of a Tyler apartment complex attracted millions of views on Facebook and thousands of viewers on the newspaper's website.
Rebecca Richardson, mother of Mason, the youngster who came to the rescue of an 18-month-old toddler who fell into the pool last week, said Wednesday she was surprised by how much interest there was.
It was first posted on Saturday.
"I didn't see it going out of East Texas," Ms. Richardson said. "When I looked on there (Facebook) the next morning and saw that it had a couple of hundred likes, I was shocked that it had gotten that many, and then when we went to dinner that night, it was close to 30,000 likes, which we all could not believe."
At some point, it was posted that the story had gotten more than 1 million views, Ms. Richardson said.
"I was completely shocked. I called Mason, and I showed him some of the comments on there from people around the world. He was just ecstatic that it had gone around the world," she said.
Interest in the story and photo continued to rise all week. By Thursday, it had appeared in the newsfeed of 5.9 million Facebook users on the newspaper's Facebook page, according to Tom Mitsoff, Tyler Paper digital media manager.
"It's very interesting," he said.
It's been the most looked at story on the newspaper's website in the past week, he said.
Ms. Richardson said Mason "was absolutely delighted that his story had gone that far and had touched other people that had similar issues.
He was pleased that some people were saying that if he had overcome his fear, then maybe they could conquer their fear, too, Ms. Richardson said.
Mason, who has asthma, used to have a fear of water and swimming because putting his face in the water was like an asthma attack where he couldn't breathe.
But he took swimming lessons, became comfortable swimming and swam over to rescue the toddler who had wiggled out of his stroller and tumbled into the pool while his mother was tending to her 7-year-old child.
An uninvolved adult taking a photo of her own child captured Mason emerging from the water with the toddler in the background. The photo was cropped for news purposes. That the rescue was caught in a photo was accidental.
The photographer was unaware that the rescue was taking place.
The grateful family of the saved toddler presented a "hero award" to Mason with a ribbon attached saying, "I'm a hero." The award is in the form of Batman and says "Batman has nothing on you." The family also gave Mason a Superman balloon.
The toddler's mother wrote, in an email to Ms. Richardson, that her son got out of his straps in his stroller in the blink of an eye. She called Mason "a remarkable boy who didn't hesitate to grab the toddler while unable to touch the bottom in the deep end of the pool and still managed to bravely swim the struggling, kicking toddler to safety."
Mason's courage and quick reaction saved her son, the mother wrote to Ms. Richardson, calling Mason an angel and a hero.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you for saving my precious baby boy," the toddler's mother wrote.