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.
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
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,
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.