Modesty aside, I will admit that it was practically surreal to experience a This-Is-Your-Life moment.
For the younger readers, an explanation is already needed. This Is Your Life was a staple of TV entertainment from 1952 to 1961 in which an unsuspecting person, usually a celebrity, would have their life's story related in a narrative by host Ralph Edwards. Usually, people who had influenced or had been influenced by the chosen individual would be on hand to offer a personal anecdote or general perspective.
So, when I was informed that I had been nominated for a distinguished service award as part of the 2009 Ohio Association Track & Cross Country Coaches Awards Banquet at Easton Hilton in Columbus, I decided to clear my work calendar to the occasion. Warren boys track coach Al Riffey, who oversees District 16, put me up for the honor, which I was pleased to receive.
I was asked to submit some general biographical information on my employment history and what contributions I had made to track and field or cross country. In addition to noting that I had covered numerous meets over a span of 28 years as a staff reports for The Parkersburg News and, more recently, with The Marietta Times, I wrote that a greater appreciation of "distinquished service" was instilled in me by Hudson High School boys track coach Rod O'Donnell, a former distance standout from Belpre and a 2005 inductee into the OATCCC Hall of Fame.
Again, another explanation is necessary. In my youth, I nearly drowned at the Belpre swimming pool. It was a hot, humid day in early August, when I sought relief from the heat. I can't recall what specifically happened, but I can relate some of what I've been told about that day.
I was found lying on the bottom of the pool by Linda Leep, a teen-age girl who lived two streets from our family home. She tried to pull me to the surface, but was unable to lift me out of the water. Mikki Willey, one of the lifeguards on duty, got me out of the pool and on the concrete deck.
O'Donnell, the head lifeguard, administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and got me breathing again.
That's when the fun began, or so I have been told.
Still believing I was underwater, I kept flailing my arms and kicking my legs in an effort to save myself. It must have been quite an ride in the ambulance. I was told that it took six people to hold me down on the table in the emergency room at Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital. I was also told of the great plume of water that arced across the room when medical personnel pushed down on my stomach.
I'm sorry I missed all that action. When I regained consciousness, it was evening and I was resting in a bed in a private room at CCMH. The next day, I was told to expect a visitor and that it would be the life guard who had saved me. He must have been quite apprehensive, not knowing how long I had been under water or if I had suffered any brain damage.
I do remember that when he came into my room, he seemed to be extremely pale.
Thus, that episode from over 40 years ago involving a swimming pool and fateful meeting between a life guard and someone's child got replayed in my mind Friday night. All in the time it took for the master of ceremonies to call my name and for me to make it to the main stage. There, Riffey stood with a grin stretched across his face. As I accepted a plague to commemorate the honor, he shook my hand. I leaned to one side and said, "This feels like a This-Is-Your-Life moment."
Exiting stage right, I started to circle back to my table. Along the way, I encountered O'Donnell in the crowd and stopped to shake his hand and offer a word of thanks.
I couldn't help but notice that he had gotten his color back.
Joe Davis is a Marietta Times part-time sports writer.