The freshly opened pool was glistening under the baking sun, as yet another summer day consisted of the steamy weather and blue skies. Since it was Labor Day, the weekend before school started, our aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents would stop by for a family gathering. As soon as all my little cousins had come over, they were leaping and running around with excitement for the pool. They all pleaded their parents with their red, sweaty cheeks and sticky bodies to go for a cooling swim. Knowing myself, I was just as thrilled and had put on my bathing suit earlier along with my brothers and sister. Soon enough, with a few parents in the shallow end, us kids were all enjoying the relaxing chill of the “pond”. We were all giggling and playing, snot dripping from our noses, and our fragile skin burning under the hot yellow ball in the sky. Emily (my twin sister) and I had soon realized Meggie, our best friend and closest cousin, was not around. She had called earlier to tell us she might stop by later from her dad’s house. Since she only lived a block or so away, we would always walk to each other’s houses and play throughout our neighborhood during the summer. Shortly after realizing this, Meggie was walking through our gate to the backyard, to the patio, right next to us in the pool. Meggie had a big smile on her face, emphasizing her rosy cheeks and olive skin. “Hi Megs!” I called from the pool. “Hey Steph!” she replied. I almost considered jumping out of the pool to hug her, and then realized I shouldn’t soak her clothing. Emily and Meggie exchanged a similar greeting and we urged her to come into the pool with us. “I forgot my swimsuit, sorry,” she said apologetically. I frowned and Emily dove under the water with a sour look on her face. “It’s alright,” I said reassuringly, “We will be out soon anyways!” Meggie nodded in satisfaction and she watched us all for a few minutes playing and thrashing around, holding back her urge to run home and get her swimsuit. Under and out of the water we went, surging this way and that, making it confusing to tell who was who. Suddenly, Meggie’s expression changed from calm and relaxed, to scared and perplexed. She pointed to the deep end and said quivering, “Is that Emily?” We all glanced among the deep grooves of the pool, and saw a dark figure down under. I knew right away it was not, by instinct. I realized I was the closest to the deep end, but before I had time to think things through, I quickly pasted my goggles over my eyes and plunged into the water. I made big, fast strokes, and there, I saw something I will never ever forget. The face of my 6 year old cousin, Robbie, white, frightened, and dead. His dark eyes were wide open and little bubbles were rising from his small mouth. A feeling of terror washed over me and stung me to the core. I took a hold of his entire body in my weak arms and urgently pushed towards the surface. I breathed a giant gulp of air and Robbie’s countenance remained lifeless. I struggled to keep his head above the water, instead of mine as I inched to the edge of the pool. By then the parents were screaming and panicking, but I had heard nothing until I jumped back into reality and out of the door from witnessing near death. Being only 11 years old, the elders were aware I was not capable of lifting a young toddler’s body out of the water by myself. My aunts and grandma assisted with the carrying of his body out of the pool, and Robbie’s mother was sobbing with fear. Robbie’s face suddenly turned a shade of red, a sign of blood flow, and he let out long, coughs and bursts of air. He vomited multiple times and the parents patted his back and wrapped him in a towel. Robbie’s father, my uncle Darren, held his boy in his arms, an expression of relief and security on his face. Not being an emotional one, he glanced in my direction and looked at me gratefully and managed a short “Thank you”. I nodded quickly, still in shock, and ran inside. I grabbed a towel and enveloped myself in it, feeling relief. I remained traumatized, and chose to sit in a corner alone, in my big, empty house. The power of life and death had come into play in my life, and I had never experienced anything like it. That day, I learned many important lessons that keep me on my feet today. Somehow, I believe there was an angel alongside of me when I was reaching for Robbie’s body. I saved a life that day, and though I might not have known how huge that was then, it has had an impact on my life today. I am now well aware that anyone can be a hero if they believe.
Anyone Can Be a Hero
May 1, 2011