Recent nursing graduate recognized by Arkansas General Assembly members

Pemberton photo

Members of the Arkansas General Assembly presented citations to Maggie Pemberton during the UCA Board of Trustees May meeting. Sen. Mark Johnson (left), Rep. Tara Sheppard, Pemberton and Rep. Matt Brown.

Maggie Pemberton was recognized by three members of the Arkansas General Assembly for her heroic efforts during the Little Rock tornadoes in March.

Arkansas Senator Mark Johnson and Arkansas Reps. Matt Brown and Tara Sheppard presented citations to Pemberton during the UCA Board of Trustees May meeting.

Pemberton graduated in May 2023 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

On Friday, March 31, Pemberton had just completed a job interview and was on Rodney Parham Road grabbing an order of French Fries when her mother told her to get off the road because a tornado was predicted to touch down in Little Rock. Neither of them could have known the tornado would devastate that area of the city, particularly the shopping center where Pemberton was.

“I’m not very social. I’m definitely not a leader,” Pemberton said. “But in this situation, I kind of got pushed into that role, and I was like, ‘Well if I gotta do it, I guess I gotta do it.’”

“I like to help people. That’s why I decided to be a nurse, and sometimes to help people, you have to be a leader.”

Using her knowledge as a nursing student and having recently completed Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training, Pemberton stepped up in the aftermath of the tornado.

She made sure that someone had dialed  9-1-1 to notify emergency crews. She walked around checking on other shoppers to make sure everyone was OK and had not sustained major injuries.

Pemberton did find one person that she only knows as Nancy.

“I got a good look at her face and her nose was bleeding, and she had a cut on her face,” Pemberton said. “I was holding rags on her head wound and reassuring her and holding her hand.”

Pemberton also noticed a broken arm and something else. The woman also had a metal rod in her leg.

Pemberton made sure that no one removed the metal rod because she knew it might cause additional injury. She continued to tend to the woman, kept falling debris off of her and waited with her until an ambulance arrived.

“Everything kinda gets blurry when I’m looking back. I don’t remember what order things happened in,” Pemberton said.

She is sure, however, that the skills she learned as a student nurse and in her recent community health nursing class helped guide her efforts.

As part of the course, students also took the Community Emergency Response Training (CERT). The training teaches individuals how to respond in catastrophic events that have the potential to produce mass casualties.

“It’s a FEMA course for community members, but I teach it to the community health nursing students because they’re going to be community members in whatever community setting they work,” said Elizabeth Gartman, clinical instructor I.

Gartman partners with Carol Walton, UCA’s emergency management coordinator, to host lessons that include online classes and in-person disaster simulations.

Coming off the heels of the CERT course and her nursing skills, Pemberton was trained and prepared to step in to assist.

Speaking at the Board of Trustees meeting, the general assembly members echoed the sentiment that Pemberton is a “true hero story” saying that she was a prime example of selfless acts of kindness.