definition of courage: a power of concentration so narrowly focused on the
task at hand as to contract to an irrelevance the horizon of possible
Like, say, dying a
Here’s another: an
impulsiveness of action so unmediated and unself-conscious as to preempt any
calculation of the risks.
Like slipping into
a watery grave.
Or just maybe the
five persons who imperiled their own lives this past summer at Porter Beach
to save three others’ simply have more nerve, and much less self-regard,
than most folks do.
On Tuesday the
Porter Police Commission honored a pair of officers and a trio of civilians
who, at great personal hazard, entered a roiling Lake Michigan to rescue
three girls being swept into the open water by a powerful rip current.
The heroes: Officer
Martin Gonzalez, Officer Scott Cornelison, and--all three of them young
adults not much older than the kids they saved--Eli Muller of Chesterton,
Sarah Drexler of Lowell, and Joel Poling of Union Mills.
unfolded late in the afternoon of Saturday, June 27, at 3:42 p.m. Gonzalez
was on patrol at the time and in uniform, while Cornelison was off duty and
operating his portable surf shop, Sandy Peaks, when a beachgoer saw, some 40
yards off shore and struggling in the two- to four-foot waves, three girls
in their early teens.
and Cornelison grabbed life preservers and boogie boards from the Sandy
Peaks stock and went in.
did--separately--Muller, Drexler, and Poling.
in a matter of minutes to the bone, hypothermic or nearly so, the five
reached the three and, fighting both the panic and the chop, hauled them in
and then out of the drink.
“This story does
not end in tragedy,” Porter Assistant Police Chief Todd Allen said on
Tuesday. “On this afternoon, families were spared the life-changing event of
loss and grieving because their loved ones were safe. They were spared
because of the heroic efforts of these five individuals.”
“It is without
question that their efforts prevented a tragedy,” Allen added. “Their spirit
of altruism, each forsaking their own safety for the welfare of others,
shall not go unnoticed. The Town of Porter Police Department and Police
Commission wish to recognize them for their selflessness and meritorious
service to this community.”
presented to each the department’s Life Saving Award. It was Gonzalez’s
second, after he used CPR several years ago to resuscitate a man who’d
suffered a heart attack. Drexler, Allen noted, plans to go into law
enforcement herself and is currently a reserve officer with the Hebron
Police Department. “Her spirit for service is clearly evident,” he said.
Drexler told the
Chesterton Tribune after the ceremony that what she mostly recalls from
that afternoon is the confusion. “A lot of waves. Windy. And screaming. It
was definitely hard to breathe.”
“It was cold,”
Poling recollected. “There were a few times I thought I’d be pulled under.”
“I remember a lot
of waves,” Muller said. “But I also remember being in the ambulance
afterward and the girls just saying Thank you, Thank you.”