SALISBURY – Alfred Johns heard a mother’s pleas for help along the Riverwalk that warm day in September.
Startled, he saw her son had fallen into the Wicomico River on the Riverwalk.
“I heard his mother crying out and that’s what caught my attention,” said Johns. “I saw him in the water, and I just took action.”
For his actions, the Rotary Club of Wicomico County honored him with a “Hero” award Tuesday during a ceremony at the Wicomico Civic Center.
“Right place, right time,” said Mr. Johns after his story was told.
Likewise, Bill Suess was also in the right place when he rescued a neighbor who had fallen into a lagoon. The Rotary also presented Mr. Suess with a “Hero” award.
The Rotary annually selects a hero for the honor. This was the first year that the organization selected two individuals.
SAVING 'LITTLE MAN'
Mr. Johns, who was homeless at the time, said he was relaxing on the Riverwalk, near the city’s library, in a spot where he didn’t usually sit. He was watching a movie on his phone.
“The mom kept telling him, ‘You’re going too close, you’re going too close,’” said Mr. Johns. “The next thing I know, I heard her scream. At first, I thought it was the movie, but when I looked up, I saw that it was her. I jumped up, threw my phone down and went over there and pulled him in.”
From the walkway’s edge, he reached out to grab the boy’s arm. “Half my body was almost in the water,” he said.
The tide, he said, was low. If it had not been, he said the boy might have been swept away.
Once emergency personnel arrived to check on the boy, he said the mother kept thanking him. He checked on the boy one more time before quietly walking away.
“They said they searched for me for a month,” said Mr. Johns. “I didn’t know they were looking for me until one day I was coming out of a store, and she ran out and said, ‘Are you the man that saved my son?’”
After his story was shared in the community, Mr. Johns – known as “Mont” -- was able to obtain housing. He said he now lives in an apartment in Princess Anne.
Mr. Johns said he is originally from Dorchester County, a 1995 graduate of North Dorchester High School.
The young boy’s name was not shared. Mr. Johns has stayed in touch with the boy and his mother.
"I call him 'Little Man,'" he said.
To honor Mr. Johns, the Rotary made a $1,000 donation to Beyond Your Walls, an organization which operates a mobile shower trailer to assist the homeless.
FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS
Mr. Suess said he was on his porch when he saw a Bishopville neighbor suddenly fall into a lagoon on April 22.
The neighbor and friend, Darryl Remedio, was out mowing his grass where Mr. Suess could see him. Mr. Remedio had a medical condition which caused him to lose consciousness and fall into the water.
“I knew I was going in as soon as I ran over there,” said Mr. Suess.
Cpl. Todd P. Jonischek of the Maryland State Police submitted an account of the incident to the Rotary for the “Hero Award” nominations.
“Bill immediately ran to the waterway and observed Darryl, face down (submerged) in the water and not moving,” wrote Cpl. Jonischek. “Suess jumped into the water and after a short time was able to elevate Darryl’s head out of the water.”
Mr. Suess said Mr. Remedio was not breathing, at first. Holding Mr. Remedio under the armpits, he was able to hold his head above water until help arrived.
The lagoon was about five feet deep, with soft mud across the bottom.
“Bill was able to hold Darryl's unresponsive body out of the water for approximately 12 minutes to not drown,” wrote Cpl. Jonischek.
Emergency personnel rushed Mr. Remedio to Atlantic General Hospital.
“I didn't know anything,” said Mr. Remedio. “I just went down there to do some work and the next thing I know is that I woke up, and my wife was telling me everything that happened.”
Mr. Remedio said his friend, Mr. Suess, a volunteer fireman, never seeks accolades. He talked about Mr. Suess having a heart attack while fighting a fire – “and he almost died himself.”
“Jumping in the water, he saved my life. He could have died in there saving my life, having another heart attack. But, that’s kind of guy he is.”
On behalf of Mr. Suess, the Rotary donated $1,000 to American Heart Association.