In the course of our busy days, we interact with and impact the lives of numerous other human beings. We navigate on automatic pilot through the mundane tasks of suburban existence, barely conscious of how our actions or words influence our neighbors or coworkers. Then, one day in a moment of need, we are jolted awake by an unusual act of kindness: A stranger pays for our latte when we’re caught without our wallet, or allows us merge on to the highway when it seems that no one else will. Sometimes the moment is truly extraordinary and that unknown neighbor saves our life.
Katie Regielsperger provided one such “Magnificent Moment” to a swimmer at Lake Sammamish State Park this summer. Regielsperger is a local Eastlake High School senior who spent the summer lifeguarding at the park. She carries a Red Cross Life Saving Certificate, and the lifeguard team at Lake Sammamish State Park trains regularly under the watchful eye of Rick Oakley. They’re required to work on endurance and life saving techniques. While they train for the worst-case scenarios, Regielsperger admitted that she never thought she would be called upon to do more than blow the whistle at misbehaving kids.
But at 3:48 p.m. on Sunday, July 20, while sitting on the life guard stand, Regielsperger noticed a fully clothed adult male struggling in the deep end of the roped-off swim area. Suddenly people began shouting “Lifeguard, lifeguard!” At this point, she says “the training took over” and she grabbed the lifeguard tube and plunged into the lake after the man. As she approached the panic-stricken man he grabbed at her. This type of reaction is very common, so Regielsperger did as she was trained and swam around the victim and grabbed him from behind with the life guard tube.
“He was a big guy, around 6-foot-2, 250 pounds, and his clothes made him even heavier,” she said.
The victim did not appear to speak English, so calming him was difficult. Regielsperger did manage to get him to shore. The victim wished to remain anonymous and, after an official debriefing, she simply went back to work.
The mission of the SAMMI Awards of distinction is to celebrate and honor those who have made unselfish contributions to the quality of life in Sammamish. Since 2002, the SAMMIs have been recognizing inspirational people in nine categories at an annual ceremony often dubbed the “Oscars of Sammamish.” In addition to celebrating those who inspire us annually, the SAMMI Awards would like to give individuals a chance to share stories of Magnificent Moments all through the year in this regular column in the Sammamish Reporter. We want to hear the stories of people who did something in the moment that helped, inspired or uplifted another member of the community. We’ve all experienced the kind neighbor or stranger that reached out in a moment of need and helped us through some difficulty. The results of these moments can be small or life changing, but they inspire us nonetheless.
Visit the SAMMI Awards Web site at sammiawards.org and click on “Magnificent Moments” in the lefthand column to share your stories. One story will be chosen each month to be highlighted in the “SAMMI Awards Presents Magnificent Moments” column in the Reporter.
Cary Young is Executive Director of the SAMMI Awards of Distinction. For more information on the SAMMIs or Young’s “Magnificent Moments” column, visit www.sammiawards.org.