By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer
PHILADELPHIA – When 18-year-old Devon Cobb took a job as a lifeguard for the first time this past summer, he thought he’d be whiling away the hours basking in the sun.
But a 4-year-old boy who fell off a pier proved him wrong.
It was his first month on the job when Cobb, now a senior at Roman Catholic High School for Boys, rescued a drowning boy July 18 at Birchwood Lakes Colony Club in Medford, N.J., Diocese of Trenton.
As Cobb was cleaning up the lifeguard station at the end of his shift, he spotted a child at the end of the pier bending down, reaching for something. Cobb thought to himself, “This isn’t good.”
Cobb was about to approach the pier but “before I could even take one step, when the little kid was trying to pick up something, he went headfirst into the water,” Cobb recalled.
“The next 10 seconds are just a blur,” he continued. “I took off my shirt, dropped my equipment, took off my shoes and ran off the dock and dove in. When I first went under, I couldn’t find the kid, because it was really dark.”
Cobb briefly returned to the water’s surface to catch his breath. “That’s when it hit me,” he said, that “this little kid is going to drown if I don’t go back under.”
According to Cobb, the murky water was eight feet deep.
Cobb went underwater again and as he came up for his second breath, his foot inadvertently hit the boy.
“He was four feet under the water, but not at the bottom,” Cobb said. “I went back under and picked him up. His body was limp. I thought maybe I was too late. I swam to the ladder, which was about five feet away. He coughed up some water. He started to cry.”
Saving the little boy’s life was also life-altering for Cobb. “It was incredible,” he said. “Before, I thought my job was real boring. I [thought] ‘why does anyone have this job?’
“Then, that happened. It changed my total view of the job. It’s definitely a bigger responsibility than I once thought it was. I don’t know what would have happened if I didn’t glance over my shoulder at that time.”
Cobb also has a new respect for life. “It’s not like this bullet-proof world that you think when you’re a teenager,” he said. “Things can actually happen to you – and you can affect others’ lives.”
Roman Catholic High School also reinforces a respect for life, according to Cobb, who transferred to Roman from a public high school in New Jersey his sophomore year.
“I never had a theology class until I went to Roman. It totally changed the way I think about others. I was more self-centered and didn’t help out the community as much as Roman taught me with the community service program and other things.
“They teach us that it’s your duty to stick up for something or, if something’s going wrong, to help your brother or sister out.”
Cobb believes his Catholic faith came into play during his rescue. “I’m sure it made me think of a little kid on a dock as a lot more than just a little kid on a dock,” he said.
“I wasn’t really religious before I went to Roman,” added Cobb. “It totally opened my eyes and made me more mature in the sense of being Catholic and knowing your duty in this world.”
The night of the rescue, Cobb said a prayer for the boy and thanked God for putting him in his path.
“When I signed up for the job, I was like, I get to sit in the sun and relax,” Cobb said.
But to his credit, Cobb received much more than a suntan after facing a life-or-death situation that late Friday afternoon at the lake.
For more information about Roman Catholic High School for Boys, call (215) 627-1270 or visit the web site www.romancatholichs.com.
CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.