Are you a hero?
What is a hero? You may immediately think of famous people around the world who have done brave deeds. The word “hero” comes from the Greek, heroes, literally meaning protector or defender. A hero is a person admired for achievements and noble qualities. But we are more likely to meet local heroes in our lives, nearly every day.
Our friend, Chip, would not want to be placed in the hero category, but recently Chip and others were heroes in their own backyard, so to speak.
We were spending time in Florida and the condo is located on a bay with boat docks. That’s where it happened. It was a Friday afternoon and a warm and sunny, beautiful day. Chip was sitting on his front porch, from which he can see the bay and boat docks.
Then came the serious situation. It was something you would never want to happen to yourself and you can’t even imagine how it happened. Of course, the water in the bay, which empties into the Gulf of Mexico, is full of sea life. I just want you to get the whole picture.
Bob Santoro, 86, was walking along the sea wall and turned to go up the steps, when his shoe fell off. He tried to put it back on, lost his balance and knew he was falling. While trying to break his fall, he injured his right arm and hand as he fell onto the concrete and into the bay. Even now, days later, it is swollen and black and blue. He couldn’t use his right arm at all to help himself in the water. He can swim, but the ladder was far away.
Immediately, there was a commotion and then Chip heard some women exclaiming, “A man fell in the bay, he needs help!” Without even thinking, Chip started down to help from his third floor apartment.
When he got there, a woman had grabbed an around-the-neck life preserver and handed it to Bob to put on as he was splashing in the water, trying to stay afloat. Chip wondered, how long can Bob keep his head above water and would he have a heart attack over all this?
Chip ran out onto the nearby dock, and decided to lie down and stretch out his arms to grab Bob’s good left arm and hold on tight.
Two other men, Jeff and Mark, jumped into the water to help keep Bob’s feet afloat. About this time, a young guy who had borrowed Chip’s kayak came paddling by. They called him over. He crawled out of the kayak and the two men in the water raised Bob to the kayak, while Chip was still holding onto him by his arm. I wonder how long the average man could sustain that? For me, it wouldn’t be very long.
Bob’s wife, Sylvia, saw people running to the dock and knew he was there, so she quickly headed down and saw him in the water. The young man who had been in the kayak came over to put his arm around Sylvia and told her all would be ok. He did not know her beforehand. By this time, a crowd of about 50 people had gathered and someone had called the EMS guys, who arrived quickly. I suspect this is something that happens fairly frequently.
They had a ladder, which attached to the dock, and one of them also jumped in the water to help Bob, along with Mark and Jeff already in the water. These men were at least 70 years old. Granted, they are all in good physical shape, but think how this could have gone differently. Maybe even one of them having a health issue, while trying to help Bob.
He had hit his head and had a superficial, bleeding scratch, but was conscious and turned out to be OK, otherwise. Of course, there were barnacles on all the pilings, nothing really good to grab onto to hold himself up. Eventually, he was out of the water about 15 minutes after the whole thing started.
The next day, he decided to go to the emergency room to be checked out, since his arm and shoulder were so sore. Nothing was broken, but he was told there were some bruised ribs. He sent a note to everyone involved, who were his heroes, (most of the people involved did not even know Bob). I’m sure if you asked those people, they would just say they were doing what needed to be done. They saved him from who knows what. He was pretty sore, but very grateful.
We never know when we will be called to help and most situations won’t be that dramatic. Serving as a hero takes many forms, but certainly just as important to the one who needs help.
(Melanie Behrens- firstname.lastname@example.org)
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