Saving A Life Saves My Game

Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 3.02.32 PMSaving A Life Saves My Game

By Carter Bell

It was the first time I saved a life and my second day of life guarding.

As usual, hoards of children poured into the pool. I looked at their faces; focusing on their eyes. They spoke to me: I trust you, they said. Maybe they trusted me too much. Why else would a 10 year old who could not swim jump off a diving board into 12 feet of water?

Billy looked like a swimmer. He climbed the diving board ladder assured, obscuring the fact the he was a novice.


The pool engulfed him. He could not swim. His hands ascended to the surface, while his head remained submerged. His frantic hands spoke to me: “HELP” they said. I responded immediately. I jumped in and swiftly paddled over to the hands calling to me in distress. I sunk underneath Billy to place the tube underneath him. His body rose with mine, as we gently floated to the surface. He coughed when his mouth hit the air, it was as if he had taken his first breath again — a sign that he was alive.  

“Are you okay?” I asked.

Silence marked his reply.

The cheers and laughs that I had known as the white noise had faded. All I heard was the ripples in the water and his breath as I looked around at a crowd devoid of sound — it was eerie.

I spent the remainder of my summer wincing at every splash. I couldn’t sit still. I must admit the image of Billy laying on the pool deck remained with me when my summer job ended and I began to hear the familiar chant of preseason football: “123 Knights 456 Win.”

I dreaded the thought of practice and the season. I no longer lived through the vicarious vehicle of my imagination: Peyton Manning was no longer a destination, he was just another icon reduced to the hall of my youth, as was the banter — the boyhood camaraderie — that came with novelty yet stayed past its due, like Grandy’s christmas present, a Manning Colts jersey I received at 10 but still expected to be worn at 15. Did football and I no longer fit?

Moreover, Billy’s near death experience highlights the fact that death can be quick and unpredictable; life is not promised or certain; why, then, should I waste time doing something I no longer love? Here I am, under the burning sun bombarded by “down,up, one; down,up,two.” Perhaps my passion for playing the game has fallen from me; perhaps this object of love no longer fits, like my Manning jersey; perhaps I have outgrown my zeal for the game; or perhaps sitting atop the pool is where I belong.

I am not a quitter. So I search for ways to make the game fun again and, surprisingly, Billy is my role model. Though I am not looking to do anything to bring me close to death, I decide to take some risks on the field. The biggest one is pushing my coach to allow me to change positions. For years, I played a smaller role on my team as an offensive guard. I decided to train harder to play both defensive end and right offensive tackle, both positions that I had never played before.  

During the off season, I continued to push myself. I entered and won weightlifting competitions and carried more confidence on the field: bigger blocks, bone crushing hits, and sacks for breakfast — lunch, and of course, dinner.

The water and Billy’s breath held my pool’s white noise prisoner, but the eerie proximity to death motivated me to take a chance with life.

Carter Bell, a graduate of Richwoods High School’s IB Program, will be a freshman at Harvard University in the fall.


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