It was a mid-summer’s day in California. So, one boy and his family headed down to their local beach to enjoy the weather. However, their idyllic trip soon took a dark turn when the youngster found the body of a lifeless child buried beneath the sand.
Conner Fitz-Gerald lives with his family on the coast in Marina, Monterey County. In July 2013, he and some loved ones headed out to make the most of the lazy summer day. The city boasts a lovely state beach which offers a number of recreational activities for adults and children alike.
On the day that Fitz-Gerald’s group visited, the grown ups relaxed while the children went to explore the beach. They ended up a quarter of a mile down coast where they found the perfect spot amongst the dunes to build sand caves. And so they started digging.
The gang of kids played happily on the beach for some time. However, their fun day out soon descended into disaster. Because, as Fitz-Patrick was scooping up handfuls of sand he came across a bag. And, worryingly, the item was still attached to a lifeless body.
It turned out that, as they burrowed into a sand dune, the mound had collapsed on a small child. In doing so, the earth had buried her entire body. As a result, she was unable to breathe and subsequently started to suffocate.
The girl in question was Alyssa Bostic, a five-year-old friend of Fitz-Patrick. Luckily for her, the 11-year-old leapt into action. Despite his youth, the boy knew that a little life hung in the balance. And somehow he knew just what to do.
Judging by where he found the bag, Fitz-Patrick was able to estimate the location of Bostic’s head. He started digging in the spot and soon came across his friend’s unconscious face. The boy later told KSBW Action News 8 that the scene was “terrifying.”
Nevertheless, savvy Fitz-Patrick managed to keep his cool. He lifted Bostic’s “limp and lifeless” body out of the sand and onto the safety of the beach. He later revealed that sand had covered her eyes and filled her mouth. Furthermore, it was clear to him that she wasn’t breathing.
However, the youngster refused to give up on his friend. Instead, he started performing CPR. Amazingly, Fitz-Patrick had no formal first aid training. Instead, he said he’d copied the technique from the popular crime-themed TV show NCIS.
Just as the 11-year-old was attempting to save his friend’s life, his father arrived on the scene. Meanwhile, the little girl’s dad rang 911 and paramedics responded to the incident several minutes later. But, if it wasn’t for the CPR Fitz-Patrick performed, the five-year-old mightn’t have survived her ordeal.
Fitz-Patrick’s father couldn’t have been prouder of his heroic son. “I’m glad that he was able to sit back and go, ‘OK, wait a minute. Something’s going on. There’s not a parent here. I know they’re at least a quarter of a mile away. I need to do something,” he revealed.
And his dad wasn’t the only one to pay tribute to Fitz-Patrick’s life-saving actions. After learning of the boy’s feat, those in his community hailed him as a “local hero.” Furthermore, the Marina Mayor, Bruce Delgado, honored the young boy at a council meeting.
And, Fitz-Patrick’s accolades didn’t end there. Some months after saving Bostic’s life, in November 2013, he received the National Youth Hero Award. The ceremony took place on Veterans Day at the youngster’s local American Legion Auxiliary chapter.
The Youth Hero Award was first established in 2002. It is awarded annually alongside a Youth Good Deed prize. According to the American Legion Auxiliary website, both gongs are designed to honor the leaders of tomorrow for their brave actions today.
“Every year, we see examples of youth in this country making a positive difference by doing some pretty amazing things,” reads a description of the special youth awards. “These acts remind us of the power of one person’s example.”
“That’s why the American Legion Auxiliary created the Youth Hero and Good Deed awards,” it explains. “We recognize young girls and boys who are demonstrating a kind of intentional selflessness, and then we tell their stories to inspire others.”
The award was given to Fitz-Patrick by the chapter’s president, who also placed a ribbon around the youngster’s neck. “Bravery, courage, fortitude,” read the accompanying medal – three things the boy undeniably had in spades.
To make the occasion even more special, Fitz-Patrick was the first youth in his area to accept the award. “Our auxiliary has never awarded it before,” the chapter’s Children and Youth Chairman, Sherryl Panek, revealed. “So it’s a very special award.”
Once again, Fitz-Patrick’s dad found himself proud of his son. “I think he would do it again tomorrow,” he told KSBW Action News 8 following the awards ceremony. “To him, to us, it’s not something that, you know, is extraordinary. It’s somebody needed help so I gotta do something.”
Despite all the fuss people made of him, Fitz-Patrick remained modest about his brave actions. He said it was all thanks to what he’d learned from NCIS that he was able to save Bostic’s life. However, many people would surely beg to differ. On this occasion the hero existed in real life, rather than on the television.