This story was submitted by Clay Buchweitz, an Eagle Scout from Troop 356 in Roswell, GA. He just started his freshman year at Samford University.
It was just another day at the beach, I had gone fishing in the morning and caught nothing. My grandmother and my mom were nagging me about spending a day at the beach with them. I finally gave in and went along, but I was not looking for much fun at all. I never expected the turn of events an hour into my beach day to happen and that my fifteen days of fame would come from it.
It all happened on Lido beach in Sarasota, a place I’ve been going my whole life. I was on the “north bend” of the public beach past the last lifeguard stand. It’s a quiet beach and nothing exciting usually happens there. The incident happened 35 yards off the shallows in about 8 feet of water where the surf was above my head. Throughout the incident I had to remember my training, something that the Boy Scouts had engraved in my head over and over. And most importantly I had to remember to stay calm.
That day the surf was huge, six-foot crests in only about a foot of water. It wasn’t deep enough to surf so I had decided to just body surf. There were a few other people out there and it looked like everything was fine. People often mess around at the beach about being distressed, so as I heard a man and a boy start yelling for help, I initially thought it was fake. A few minutes later I heard the same scream louder and more distressed. I looked and saw a 13-year-old boy and a 57-year-old man separated by a few yards. Both had been swimming fine earlier, but they had been caught in a dangerous rip current that was pulling them under and away from shore.
Like muscle memory, I did the first thing that came to mind, I whistled for everyone to get out of the water. I could not risk having someone else end up getting caught in the rip current. Next, I swam out to where I was parallel with the man, who was further back from the boy, and tried to get them to swim out of the rip current. Both the man and the boy were in so much shock that they were completely unresponsive. Neither of them acknowledged what I was saying and just kept yelling for me to save their lives and that they were going to die.
After I realized that I was going to have to pull them in I assessed the situation. I made sure that the rip current wasn’t going to sweep me up, and if it did I checked to see where it was ending up. After making sure that the situation was safe enough to attempt a physical rescue, I decided to go for the boy first.
I swam directly towards him, picked him up and put him on the chest board that I had tied to my wrist. Once he was on the board I held him to it with my right arm as I swam out of the current sideways and then straight back to shore.
Then I turned my attention to the man. He was completely in shock at this point and a lifeguard was swimming out parallel to me. I got in reach of the man first and was able to hand him my board so that he could have something to keep him up while we waited for a few seconds on the lifeguard. Together the lifeguard and I helped the man back to shore where the paramedics were waiting.
I have to credit my success that day to what I learned through the Boy Scouts. I couldn’t have done what I did, or even started the thought process, if I hadn’t had my training leading up to becoming an Eagle Scout. The many hours I spent in meetings and training sessions really payed off. I was able to go through the steps of a verbal rescue, leading to the seemingly effortless motion of transitioning into a physical rescue.
After all of this happened many words were thrown around and circulated about me, “Hero” and “Lifesaver” were the main two. I was viewed differently in my temporary community at the beach, and also in my community at home. I decided amidst the craziness of it all to use my platform to set an example for younger Scouts. I wanted to let them know that the Scouting community is great and will teach them skills that they will never know when they might need to use. I wanted them to know that they shouldn’t be ashamed of being a Scout as it is something that can help them tremendously in life.
In the following weeks things were pretty crazy. The family was reaching out to me and I was finally able to catch up with them and it was amazing. They were so thankful for what I did and insisted on repaying me, but I knew that I couldn’t take anything. I was just happy to help. I knew that I could rest well knowing that they were all together and no one was seriously hurt. All I had to remind myself during the weeks after was to stay humble throughout the weeks after.
The most important part of my whole experience would be my need to inform others what to do if they were in my shoes. First, don’t be afraid to take action. There is always time to celebrate what you have done, but if you do not do something, you will regret it later. Next, trust your instinct, if you feel like you need to help someone, help them. Lastly, no matter the action, big or small, stay humble and let others praise you; it is better to let others sing your praises.
Clay Buchweitz is an Eagle Scout from Troop 356 in Roswell, GA. He just started his freshman year at Samford University.