Nova Scotia

'When I realized who she was, it truly broke my heart': Why a driver's act of kindness went viral

Casey Lee Martin says learning her passenger was Kawthar Barho is a reminder that you never know what people are going through.

Casey Lee Martin says meeting Kawthar Barho is a reminder you never know what people are going through

Casey Lee Martin's Facebook post about meeting Kawthar Barho has been shared more than 5,000 times. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

A random act of kindness toward a mother who lost her seven children in a devastating house fire in Halifax is reverberating on social media.

A Halifax woman was moved to offer a ride to a stranger and two children after seeing the bus they were running toward pull away on a hot summer day. Casey Lee Martin looped back around to pick up the trio.

"I know that feeling. I've been there, I've been a mom with a child taking a bus and there's nothing worse than missing it, so I pulled over," Martin said. 

The woman agreed and as they chatted, told Martin the children with her weren't her own and she was heading to a Halifax hospital to see her husband.

Martin said she soon realized her passenger was Kawthar Barho, who survived a fast-moving house fire at her home in February, but her seven children perished and her husband suffered severe burns. The family came to Canada in 2017 as refugees from Syria.

"When I realized who she was, it truly broke my heart knowing everything that she's been through and that she was just trying to go for a Sunday visit to see her husband and that the bus pulled away on her," said Martin. 

Five of the Barho children with their parents, Ebraheim and Kawthar, in an undated photo posted to Facebook by the Halifax mosque the family attended. Ebraheim Barho has been in hospital after suffering severe burns, the result of the house fire that killed his seven children. (Ummah Masjid/Facebook)

After dropping Barho off, Martin posted about the experience on Facebook, urging transit drivers to think twice before leaving people stranded.  

"You really never know where that bus is taking them. In this case, she was going to visit her husband in the ICU, so I thought it was just some food for thought if nothing else," she said.

Since then, Martin's Facebook post has been shared more than 5,000 times.

"I knew that my mom and a couple friends may comment on it, but I certainly didn't expect thousands and thousands of comments and shares," she said. 

The seven Barho children, from top left: Rola, 12; Ahmed, 14; Ola, 8; Mohamad, 9; Hala, 3; Rana, 2; and three-month-old Abdullah. (Submitted)

Martin said her intention wasn't trying to draw more attention to the family, but said she's since heard from friends of the family that Kawthar Barho appreciated the gesture and the post.

They confirmed "she was almost in tears as she missed the bus because she knew they'd have to wait for another hour before the next bus came because it's a Sunday," Martin said.

Halifax Transit doesn't discuss specific complaints, but it expects drivers who haven't yet pulled away from a curb to wait for passengers trying to get on, said spokesperson Brendan Elliott in an emailed statement.

A pile of flowers and stuffed animals near the Barho home in Spryfield in February. (Robert Short/CBC)

He said once buses start pulling out they are required to continue because stopping could put them at risk of being sideswiped and could be unsafe for people boarding.

Martin said she also heard directly from Halifax Transit Monday.

"I know that bus drivers are on a tight schedule … It wasn't my intention to offend anyone by any means. I know they have a job to do but just that they could think twice before taking off," she said. 

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With files from Paul Palmeter

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