Two Dade High Schoolers who were scheduled to be honored for saving a life at Monday night's meeting of the Dade Board of Education gave the occasion a miss, but Schools Superintendent Jan Harris was inclined to cut them some slack.
"They had a soccer match," she explained.
Dr. Harris, who had been passing out awards to other Dade students who had excelled in athletics, said high school sports had been proven to instill skills and habits conducive to success later in life. In this case, said the superintendent, devotion to athletics was a reflection of the character the two students had already shown. "They didn't want to let the team down," she said.
In bolstering their teammates, however, the two young heroes did let down The Dade Planet, which had hoped for a crack at them at the meeting. The Planet of course forgives all, but instead of a snap and a chat must make do here with a photograph and version of events provided by Dr. Harris and the school system, as follows:
Zach Hibbs and Mason Roberts, shown here to the right and left of current Dade High principal Josh Ingle, were hiking the Waterfall Trail at Cloudland Canyon when they came upon a fellow hiker who had collapsed, apparently from a heart attack.
Both students had learned CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) at Dade High, and they were able to take over CPR attempts from the man's family and keep him alive until park personnel, first responders and Dade Emergency Services rescuers arrived. The man was transported by Life Force helicopter to Erlanger, where he ultimately recovered after receiving intensive cardiac treatment.
So Hibbs and Roberts almost certainly saved a life, and their school and their community have applauded them for their heroism. They were honored by their principal and by Dr. Harris, and would have been honored by the broader public on Monday night--except for that soccer game. Still, The Planet expects there were four red ears at that match as the superintendent, the school board, the local press and a pretty hefty audience honored Hibbs and Roberts in absentia.
The Planet cannot close the annals on the young heroes without turning the spotlight for a moment on a somewhat older one: It is safe to predict that a certain retired public health nurse was grinning from ear to ear when she heard the news of Hibbs' and Roberts' feat.
Verenice Hawkins (shown here in a Planet file shot) crusaded for years to make CPR a required course at Dade High until, in 2013, her efforts were rewarded by Georgia legislation requiring it to be taught statewide.
"...if we can save just one life, what a great thing we can accomplish," Georgia Sen. Jeff Mullis was quoted by The Chattanooga Times Free Press as saying on the occasion of the CPR bill's being signed into law.
Now that great thing seems to have come to pass as Dade celebrates its homegrown heroes--all three of them.