Chesterton Tribune



Tribune coverage of heroes of Porter Beach inspires anonymous reader

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The rescued and their rescuers: The three civilians who risked their lives in June 2015 to save three girls from drowning at Porter Beach receive a memento of the selflessness from an anonymous donor at Tuesday’s meeting of the Porter Police Commission. They’re joined by two of the girls who narrowly escaped drowning. From left to right, Chesterton Middle School seventh-graders Chloe Root and Mackenzye Kuhnle, the rescued; and Sarah Drexler of Lowell, Eli Muller of Chesterton, and Joel Poling of Union Mills, the rescuers.    (Tribune photo by Kevin Nevers)



I don’t know what to do and I’m probably going to die.

As near as Chloe Root can recall, that’s what was going through her mind as she and two other girls flailed in four-foot waves off Porter Beach on June 27, 2015.

Mackenzye Kuhnle remembers exactly what thought struck her, as she was being swept out into Lake Michigan. “I was thinking I need someone to save me.”

Chloe and Mackenzye, both 13, both seventh-graders at Chesterton Middle School, lived to tell about it, as did their friend, because someone did save them: a pair of Porter Police officers and a trio of young civilians who, because it never would have occurred to them not to, chose to make those girls’ peril their own: Officers Martin Gonzalez and Scott Cornelison; and civilians Eli Muller of Chesterton, Sarah Drexler of Lowell, and Joel Poling of Union Mills.

As Mackenzye tells the story, the line that day between enjoying life on a sunny Saturday afternoon in June and dying cold and alone was fearfully thin. “We were swimming, hanging out. Then Chloe couldn’t touch the bottom, and I couldn’t then. The waves started pulling us out. I was getting pushed under and I couldn’t get up.”

Then there was a frantic rush from the beach: Muller, Drexler, and Poling hitting the water, joined by Gonzalez and Cornelison and on their heels three Indiana Dunes State Park lifeguards as well, Sean Partart, Jon Arlow, and Evan Mazurkiewicz, all of them swarming on the three girls, who by this time were some 40 yards out and past the buoys.

Who exactly rescued whom--how, amid the tangle of limbs and churn of waves, they all made it back to dry land--is unclear. But Mackenzye remembers Muller talking to her, calming her.

Last fall, in October, the Porter Police Commission honored the five for their courage and the Chesterton Tribune duly covered the event.

The story isn’t quite over, though. A Tribune reader, moved by this paper’s coverage of the incident, wanted to commemorate the five’s selflessness.

So at the Police Commission’s meeting Tuesday night, Police Chief Jamie Spanier presented each hero with a handsomely designed and framed memento of the award ceremony donated by that reader, who wishes not to be identified: a clipping of the Trib’s Oct. 8 story beneath the paper’s Gothic masthead, with a photograph of the five after receiving their Porter PD Lifesaving Award.

“I’m thankful we have citizens willing to help out in an emergency,” Spanier said. “And once again I want to thank each and every one of them. And I want to thank the anonymous donor for the very nice mementos of that occasion.”

But the gratitude to their rescuers expressed by Chloe and Mackenzye cuts to the heart of it: Thank you, thank you.



Posted 1/21/2016




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