Local heroes


It was Tuesday, Nov. 28, about 5:30pm. I had been swimming laps in front of the Hyatt for about 30 minutes, with only 15 more minutes to go. A large inflated floating swan was put in the water near the north side of the Hyatt beach by an Asian-looking man, I guess Chinese from the talking I heard later. He put his wife and young child, maybe 2 years old, into the floating device, and stayed with them for a few minutes. Then he went back to the beach.

The swan was slowly drifting south toward the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan, about 20 feet from the shore. The man had gotten something from the beach and was manipulating it in his hands as he watched the swan. The wind picked up gradually, and I was concerned, but not worried, since the man was watching the whole while and apparently thought that everything was under control.

The wind picked up more, and the swan was now drifting south southwest, slightly more in the direction of the reef. The man started walking quickly in the water to try to catch up to it, but walking was not fast enough. (Running south on the beach and then going into the water to cut it off would have been a much better choice.)

The man started swimming, but was having difficulty because of the rubber shoes on his feet or because he was not a good swimmer, or perhaps both. He did his best but saw the distance between the swan and him growing, so he stood up and faced the beach and shouted, “Help, help!”

I watched people on the beach for a positive reaction but saw nothing. About two seconds later, he shouted again, “Help, help!” I guessed that if nobody else wanted to get involved, I could make it to the swan before it got out much further west, into stronger wind.

That’s when two young men who had been playing volleyball and were on a short break under the Ichiban Water Sports shade sprang into action.  They ran full speed to the water line and then dove into the water (much better than I could have done). They dashed all the way to the swan, which now was probably 80 yards or so from the shoreline. They swam back slowly, pushing the swan in front of them. The swan and rescued woman and baby landed slightly south of Sakura Water Sports.

Most of the people were paralyzed, in what is often called the “Bystander Effect.” Most were just watching, having no idea what to do, while probably more than a couple of them grabbed their phones to record the event.

One of those real American Heroes was Tyce, the manager of Gold’s Gym. I don’t know the name of the other guy, and I don’t know his face very well.

Every autumn the CNMI government recognizes “first responders” and other personnel whose job is to save lives. The same type of ceremony happens around most of the U.S., I assume.

What do you call people who respond before the “first responders”’ arrive? And who often save a life and make it unnecessary for the “first responders”’ to be called? Should we call them “pre-first responders” or…or what?

I understand that DPS officers, EMTs, firefighters, and many others do indeed save many lives, and make large sacrifices via long hours, night shifts, irregular shifts, long shifts, lack of sleep, and sometimes lack of respect, and lack of gratitude. My younger sibling is an MD who has helped save many lives and has sacrificed much more than I would be willing to over the long term.

My point here is that people like Tyce and his friend deserve some recognition and gratitude. They sacrificed their safety and potentially even their own lives to help that mother and baby. In autumn of next year, are they going to have their photos taken, with a great write-up in the newspapers, about their heroic deeds? Or will they just be as plain old “civilians,” forgotten while the media honor employees of the government only?

Let’s always recognize everyone who saves a life or helps protect people in danger until the “first responders” arrive. That’s my opinion.

John Cole
Garapan, Saipan

Contributing Author

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