Whatever Happened To ... the guy who saved Mike Wise and his dog?
Two Aprils after writing about a near-death experience I had while running on the C&O Canal towpath, I am still asked the same two questions:
1) "How's your dog?"
2) "What happened to the kid who saved your life?"
The dog and the kid, that's all they want to know. So, to catch everyone up: Thank you, I am fine.
Okay, the dog and the kid:
Looly, my golden Lab (and about the most popular canine in Washington until that showoff Bo moved to Pennsylvania Avenue) is alive and well -- though in need of a bath and breath mints. She turned 4 on March 29 and no longer ventures onto the ice, which she fell through that January night in 2008 near Chain Bridge Road as I stopped to stretch during a run. When she couldn't get out, I went after her, plunging through the ice, too. Unable to escape for several minutes, numb and losing feeling in my legs and hands, I finally used my right arm as a hook, slung it under Looly's abdomen, and jerked with everything I had left. She made it up onto a piece of ice that held her weight while she scampered out. But I was done for, screaming at the top of my lungs for help.
About 45 seconds later, the kid arrived: Jason Coates. Division III runner at the University of Chicago. First-year law student at George Washington University. Good Samaritan. Godsend. Good thing that as I sat there shivering in disbelief after he pulled me out, I thought to ask his name and where he worked. "I'm a law student at GW," he said before jogging off.
I contacted him through an e-mail address I got from GW. We met at Two Amys off Wisconsin Avenue and swapped vastly different stories. I thought I was 15 feet from the shore with my forearms resting on a piece of ice when he happened upon me during his nightly run. He swears I was 30 feet out, nearly halfway, and all he could see was my head and neck in a small hole in the ice, next to another hole where Looly had fallen through. Given that I was disoriented -- in Stage 2 of hypothermia -- and probably wanted to think that I was better off than I was, his version is probably closer to the truth.
Anyhow, when I asked if there was anything I could do for him, Jason confessed: "I didn't get the best grades my first semester, and I'm having trouble getting an internship."
"So you flunked out?"
"Uh, no, not that bad."
I called a friend from a prominent New York law firm and told him the story. He put Jason in touch with a judge in the commercial division of a Queens civil court, where Jason has clerked the past two summers. The first summer, Jason asked if he could store his belongings in my basement for the summer. Free food. An internship. Free storage. "What's next," I began, "my first-born?"