Last Thursday, Sept. 9, was an incredibly beautiful day at Greenwood Beach. I lived in Evanston along the lakefront for 20 years but I moved away in 2010. I was passing through town on Thursday and was lured back to the beach I had spent many days at. With the kids back at school and lifeguards long gone the beaches are designated as closed. Despite the absence of lifeguards people often head to the beach and sometimes even venture into Lake Michigan.
I chose to take a break midafternoon with my French bulldog. As we sauntered onto the sand I heard a faint “help.” There were several people on the beach ahead of me trying to decide what to do. One lady wanted to call 911. The others were silent spectators. I quickly threw off my sweater and sandals and headed out 60 yards or so, fully clothed to rescue this woman who clearly needed help.
It took quite a while to get her into shore as we battled three-foot waves, her fatigue and an uneven sandy bottom.
I realize that I was in the unique position of being there and have had formal lifeguard training. However, I am increasingly disturbed by the apathy of my fellow beachgoers. Why didn’t the 40 or so people watching us form a human chain to assist me? Why wouldn’t a few people walk out into the water up to their knees to help me bring her to shore?
I subsequently spoke with a paramedic and asked him if he had ever completed a water rescue. He said “no.” He had only aided in water recoveries.
If I had not gone into the water the woman would have drowned. If I had not meandered onto Greenwood Beach 911 would have been called. It would have taken a response team several minutes to get to the beach. The stranger that I rescued would have gone under the waves by that time. A rescue of her body would have ensued.
I thought we were in this together? I thought Evanston was the kind of town where neighbors work together and care about one another? Could my fellow man really have lived with the knowledge that we could have saved a life but did nothing? Yes, I took a risk but I would do it again in a heartbeat. Would you?