Wednesday, April 14, 2010
If you read my Barbecue Master blog, then you have heard about and seen my younger son, Eli Wittum. He's a great kid, and he puts together my new grills and helps me haul those around if I'm grilling on the road.
Last year at my Carolina Cook Out on the Yadkin River sponsored by Food Buzz, Eli rescued another teenager who was drowning, and he has just been awarded the Carnegie Hero award for doing that.
I still can get weepy when I talk about that day.
My Mom came up the hill to tell me that Eli had gone in the river and that they couldn't find him. Any parent can tell you that you do not want to hear something like that. I was stunned.
Eli would not try to go swimming in a river badly swollen from recent rains and churning like the ocean, so it didn't make sense. But, then someone told me that he went in after someone yelling "help." Then, it did make sense. He is the type of kid to go help even when about 100 people on the bank were just standing and looking.
For about 20 minutes, I did not know if my son was dead or alive, because the current was so strong that it pulled both boys down the Yadkin and out of sight. I was numb. I just refused to even think about maybe not having my son alive, or I tried to blank that thought out.
Finally, Eli came walking back up to the area where we were having the cook out. This is the first glimpse I had of him in the photo below.
The Carnegie Foundation saw the article about Eli in the Salisbury Post, and they put him in for that national award for bravery. The award dates back to 1904, and a little over 9000 people total have won a Carnegie medal. Around 20 percent of those getting the award die in the effort to save someone else, and I am so thankful that Eli is here to get the award and that I'm not accepting it on his behalf with him dead.
Eli was also awarded the Boy Scout Medal of Honor Cross Palms which is the highest award for heroism in the Boy Scouts in the United States, and the Rowan County United Way gave him third place for teens in the county last year for service to the community.
This is a photo I took of the Yadkin River before Eli went in and pulled out the other teen - someone he did not know and from the next county over. This is the roughest I have ever seen the water at the Bull Hole in Cooleemee. Usually, it is calm and about knee deep. It sure wasn't calm the day Eli went in. And, I will be forever thankful that Eli survived and that he was able to pull the other boy who passed out and went totally under out and get him to the bank.