Mom From SEPTA Kids Video Speaks Out: “He Came at Us, We Didn’t Come at Him”

Here’s the story you haven't heard about the video that has Facebook's parenting police in an uproar. Our exclusive interview with the woman at the center of it all.

Left: Screenshot from video of incident on SEPTA. Middle: Jessica Carrera with son. Right: The children from the video enjoying a snack at Old City's Wexler Gallery, shortly before the video was shot.

Left: Screenshot from video of incident on SEPTA. Center: Jessica Carrera with son. Right: The children from the video enjoying a snack at Old City’s Wexler Gallery, shortly before the video was shot.

UPDATE, 3/31/16: Read the latest on the SEPTA kids video.

By now, you’ve probably seen it: A disturbing viral video that shows a group of out-of-control young children on SEPTA’s Market-Frankford El. It has been all over TV news in the last 24 hours.

The group of African-American and Latino kids are seen spitting, cursing, and punching, seemingly targeting the person behind the camera, a white man named Patrick Coyle. Meanwhile, the woman accompanying the children stands quietly nearby.

Well, Philadelphia magazine has seen a different video, captured in the moments before the viral video began, and this new video shows a different perspective. The woman can be seen trying to get the kids in line, and Coyle — who continued to record the children after the woman says she and the kids repeatedly asked him to stop — can clearly be heard calling one of the children a “monkey kid.” Twice.

Here, the woman in the video, Jessica Carreras, 38, tells her side of the story. Carreras is the mother of the Latino children and the aunt of the two African-American kids. The children range in age from 7 to 11. We repeatedly reached out to Coyle, who did not respond to our requests for an interview.

Jessica, how did all of this start?
We live in a really bad neighborhood near Somerset and Cambria, and I try to get the kids out of it to see what else is out there. So we had gone to an art opening at the Wexler Gallery at Third and Race — my professor at Community College of Philadelphia invited me — and the kids did yoga in the park as well. It was peaceful. Then we got on the train to go home.

I heard somewhere that one of the kids bumped into the man behind the camera.
No. One of them bumped into somebody else, but it was really more of a brush, and that person didn’t even really care. It was no big thing.

But it became a big thing very quickly. How did that happen? Why did Coyle even get involved?
I’m not sure. His demeanor and attitude were ridiculous. He was hype and loud and too close to the kids. He jumped out of his seat and put his phone in their faces. I don’t think it was a sane move, if you want me to be honest. I asked him to stop, and they told him to stop, and then he just started mocking me, mocking the kids. He came at us, we didn’t come at him.

How did it feel hearing some white guy call your kid a monkey?
Regardless of ethnicity, I feel it’s sad to refer to children as animals. If we want our children to be respectful, we need to be respectful to them as well.

This happened last week. So why is this all coming to a head now?
I knew that he posted the video on Facebook. I thought he was just being ignorant. I didn’t want to be bothered with it, but then it’s on the news, and I hear from my neighbors and my family, and I’m like, What? Really? Listen, the kids were wrong, but nobody was there. Nobody was in my shoes. It’s not fair.

Looking back on it, is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I don’t condone them misbehaving, but I understand why they were intimidated. I just wanted to get through it. Honestly, I get very flustered.

I tried to gather the kids closer. I was speaking to them, doing the best I could in that situation. Just because I wasn’t trying to put on a show for everyone on YouTube doesn’t mean that I wasn’t trying. But they had somebody shoving a phone in their face and yelling at their mother. What are these boys supposed to do? They were trying to protect their mother.

It was a screwed-up situation to be in. You’re surrounded by freaking madness. The kids shouldn’t be made to be these little monsters. I want people to understand that these are beautiful, peaceful, happy children. We’ve all had our moments. They’re beautiful. I love them. They’re horrible? No. They’re just young, growing kids.

What would you say to Patrick Coyle?
I think it’s distasteful to record a mom with her kids. At least, that’s not how I do things. I would tell him to be more friendly, less harsh. If he had done that, it wouldn’t have gone the way it did. My kids are loving and caring and kind people, but they wanted to be tough guys.

Is there some lesson that you hope the kids take away from this?
Ignore people. We’re living in a city where people aren’t mentally stable. They can’t pay their mind to everybody on a train. They are with me. Follow me. Focus on what I’m saying.

Did it surprise you that none of the other adults said or did anything to defuse the situation?
Everybody just sat still. I’m not surprised. I have been stuck up and carjacked. I have been in the middle of gun shootouts on some of the craziest blocks in Philadelphia. Nobody does anything. Sometimes people just don’t want to get involved.

It must be tough to hear people call you a bad mom.
People need to think about what they go through in their lives raising children before they judge another person. Being a mom does not come with rules. It’s not black and white. You never know what’s going to happen. You have to be grateful that you can get through rough moments and enjoy the beautiful ones. Sometimes it’s hard, and sometimes it’s really wonderful.

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.