One minute you’re delivering some food, making a cake or unwinding from work. The next minute, someone’s life is in danger. When it happened to these guys, they didn’t freeze, panic or chicken out — here, they tell us what it was like to save someone else’s life.
The Mayor Who Surfed a Marooned Teen to Safety
Tom Tait: Until recently I was the mayor of Anaheim, where I live. About a year ago, my wife and I bought a condo on the beach in Laguna Beach that we’d spend the weekends at. I’d just gotten there from work on a Friday afternoon — we had a 7 o’clock dinner reservation with some friends, so I started to change. I was taking off my shoes and coat when I heard people on the beach start to yell. It was a certain type of screaming, like panic. There was a big swell that day, with big waves coming in. So I looked out onto this cove, with rocks on both sides, and a kid was out there about 50 yards offshore, struggling.
I just took off. I still had on slacks and a nice shirt. I ran down the stairs next to us, where there’s a locker area where people store surfboards. I just grabbed a board — it wasn’t mine, it was one of those soft foam boards — ran across the sand and jumped in the water and paddled out. I hadn’t surfed in a couple of years, and I was out of shape. I’m thinking, I hope I make it! The waves were big. The kid’s out there panicking, trying to get a hold of some rocks. Fortunately the rip current pulled me out pretty quickly, and I got through the big waves.
By the time I got to him, I was out of breath. Good thing I didn’t have a heart attack, where he’d have to paddle me in. It crossed my mind, believe me! When I reached him, I got off the board, and he swam to grab it. At that point, he calmed down somewhat because he felt safe. Then we each hung on to the sides of the board with our arms around it, like holding onto a life preserver. We got in front of the next wave, the wave broke behind us and we rode the whitewater in, both of us hanging onto the board.
When we got to shore, the paramedics and lifeguards had shown up. There weren’t any lifeguards there because they leave at 7 p.m. every day, and this happened around 7:15. The boy’s parents were onshore too, and I learned the kid was 15 years old, and visiting from Washington, D.C. He was in great shape, but if you’re not used to riptides, your instinct is to swim inside — and when you can’t, you panic. He wasn’t used to that. But he was very appreciative, and the family was appreciative. They offered to buy me new prescription glasses, which I lost when I got knocked down by a wave as I came in. I said don’t worry about it.
Then I remembered that I was late for dinner, so I ran inside to change quickly and we got an Uber to meet our friends. As I sat down to dinner, I was still shaking! The adrenaline was still working its way through. I think my friend at dinner bought me my drink that night.
It all happened pretty quickly, but the big thing is, I knew what to do. It wasn’t a question of whether to do it or not — that didn’t even really pop in my head. I just knew I could help. And I did. Paddling out in waves or riptides aren’t that intimidating when you have a surfboard with you. I really think any surfer would have done that.
The Pizza Guy Who Thwarted a Murder
Joey Grundl: I’ve been delivering pizzas for Domino’s for about two years. It’s pretty routine, you rarely see something out of the ordinary. But last year, when I went to the door of one house, a man opened the door, and behind him, a woman appeared. I immediately noticed she had a black eye. I didn’t initially think anything of it, but then as I was talking to him, I happened to look up at her again and she pointed to the black eye mouthed, “Help me,” followed by, “Call the police.” This is while I’m just talking to the guy, getting the money for the pizza.
He didn’t seem to have any recognition of what was going on. He put on this act like he was the nicest guy in the world, like everything was okay — I must have been able to put on a good poker face, because I’m sure had he noticed my face suddenly making this weird expression, he might’ve caught wind of something. But he didn’t seem to notice anything was going on behind him, between me and her.
After I got the money and gave him the pizza, I went back to my car, then went back to the store and called 911 to report that there was a woman possibly in some sort of domestic violence issue. The dispatcher said, “We’re gonna send out a squad car over there right away.”
The next day, when the police officer who ended up taking the call showed up and wanted a written statement from me, he told me that the guy had a gun in his car, and he honestly thought that the victim wasn’t gonna make it through the night — that the man had every intention of killing her that night. The guy was charged with several different counts.
After about a week, the Associated Press picked up the story, and it picked up from there. I got interviewed by TV stations in Milwaukee and Green Bay — in one of the interviews, I was wearing a Taylor Swift sweatshirt with her on it, and it kind of blew up on the internet. I had a bunch of friends tag her and her marketing team. She saw it, and I happened to be going to her concert the next month, so she invited me to meet her after the show. She said what I did was amazing, and called me a hero.
The Cake-Maker Whose Emergency CPR Kept His Boss’ Blood Flowing Even When His Pulse Stopped
Chance Buddecke: I was working at Baskin-Robbins for more than a year. One day I was working on cakes in the backroom. The co-owner of the store was behind me — I heard him fall and his head hit the floor. It was quite loud. I turned around, and he was on the ground and not breathing.
His wife was there as well. She started performing chest compressions while I called 911. After a little while she got too tired to keep doing it, so I talked to the 911 operator on speakerphone while I took over. In high school, our health class actually did a CCR/CPR class that teaches you to do it to that song “Stayin’ Alive.” So that’s where I remembered it from — I just went with the beat, and also I was on the phone with the operator and she was talking me through, keeping me focused on it.
When you do chest compressions, the ribs start to crack if you do it hard enough — which you’re supposed to — and so halfway through, they started cracking and I was worried about it, so I started asking the operator, “Is this okay?” She said, “Yes, keep going. It happens.” It’s kind of… just crunchy. Afterward I kept thinking about it, like, “Oh gosh, that was awful.” It’s not the best feeling.
I stayed focused — there wasn’t really anything else I could do other than the chest compressions. I didn’t do mouth-to-mouth — the teacher in my class said it wastes too much time getting the blood flowing because once you do the chest compressions, if you stop them, the blood flow loses its circulation when you take the breath. So they shy away from doing that now.
My adrenaline was pumping, but even in the heat of the moment, I was very concerned that he might die. He started to turn very gray. It took about five minutes for the ambulance to arrive, but it felt a lot longer than that. When they got there they said that he actually was without pulse — he was basically dead. They said that me doing the chest compressions kept the blood circulating and kept the blood going into his heart and his brain, that had I not been doing chest compressions, he would have definitely been dead. To be honest, when I was taught CPR, I never really thought I would have to use it, but obviously that’s why they teach it to you: Because you never expect to do it.
Later, the owner thanked me, and said that me cracking his ribs was definitely worth it. I got a citizen’s lifesaving award from the Tempe Fire Department in a ceremony with the mayor and the Phoenix Suns owner. They gave me a little framed plaque, so that was nice of them.
In those types of situations, you have to jump in — you’re left with no other option. I didn’t wanna see him die, and if there’s something I can do, I’d rather be able to. I know there’s a lot of people who would freeze. But I feel so useless if I freeze, like, am I just gonna stand here? So I try to make sure I’m doing as much as I can to help the situation.
I never really thought he would have a heart attack — he was always pretty active and was working on stuff all the time. I think the incident changed me in the way that I appreciate the people around me, and how you never know what could happen, and that you’ve got to live your life to the fullest.