An afternoon bike ride for four youths turned into a lifesaving adventure when they discovered a barely conscious 42-year-old woman floating near a Potomac River sea wall. The youths saved the woman's life by alerting police at a nearby station.
The four Southwest youths, 10-year-old twins Alonzo and Alfonzo James, Roger Corkley, 11, and Kareem Johnson, 10, were honored for their efforts in the incident, which occurred in February.
Police Chief Maurice T. Turner presented awards and $50 savings bonds to the four during a June 12 ceremony. Turner also presented awards to two officers who responded to cries from the youths and lowered themselves in the water to pull out the woman.
On Feb. 6, the four youths were riding their bicycles near Water Street SW when Roger saw a purse at a nearby railing. He began searching for its owner. After he spotted the woman in the river, he ran into the station and alerted police.
"Roger and Alfonzo started to cry and I tried to cheer them up," Kareem said. "We hollered 'whose pocketbook is this' and Roger glanced over the water and saw the woman."
Officer Roger Waldren was at the nearby police station when he heard cries from Roger that a woman was in the water. Waldren grabbed a life preserver from a police car and lowered himself with a line he tied to the railing.
Waldren swam into the icy river toward the woman and a short time later police Officer Ronald Warren joined the effort to help get the woman to shore.
"It was very dangerous," Warren said. "We fell victim to hypothermia. Being in the cold water without any protection, you more or less lose your sense of direction and body movement."
Divers on a training exercise at the police department's harbor station eventually pulled the three out of the water. They were taken to D.C. General Hospital, where they were treated for hypothermia.
The woman later received psychiatric treatment. Police said she had apparently jumped into the river.
Police said the honesty of the four youths saved the woman's life. "They had pride in themselves. They could have gone on and taken the purse," Warren said. "They saw the purse and did a little investigation. I think very highly of them. They are tops."
Kareem's grandmother Haral Johnson said, "I am glad. That is a good start to the good side. If he does one good deed he will know then that there are many more out there."
Harriett James, the twins' mother, said the boys were riding in the harbor area without her permission. But "when they told me about saving this lady's life, I was so proud. Everybody went up there without permission of their parents. I forgave them . . . . "