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Heroic teen shows inner strength.

Justin Gregorich of Safety Harbor, Florida, attends Countryside High School in nearby Clearwater. The 14-year-old freshman stands just 5'3" tall and weighs only 130 pounds, yet hopes to make the school's junior-varsity football team.

On January 28, Justin attended a team conditioning practice but could not lift as much weight as others in the weightroom. Reportedly, some of the other boys teased him about his lack of strength. Dejected, Justin left the practice early.

Usually, Justin would have called his mother for a ride home, but that day he decided to walk. He told the next day's St. Petersburg Times, "The weird thing was, I didn't really want to leave football. I just left because I got this urge."

On the way, Justin began having second thoughts about abandoning the practice. "I'm thinking, man, aw, I should have stayed at football, the coach is going to be mad at me, why did I leave?" Just then a few hundred yards ahead of Justin, a car veered off the road, crashed through a chain-link fence, struck a drainage culvert, and then plunged into a retention pond near the Clearwater-Safety Harbor border. The car began sinking, grille first, with the elderly driver, Raymond Kane, trapped inside.

Justin recalled for the Times how he began yelling for someone to call 911, "Then I was like, I gotta save that guy." Setting down his backpack and removing some of his clothing, Justin traversed the damaged section of the nearly six-foot fence and ran to the pond. Two other passersby, Michael McBrayer and Shawn Brady of Dunedin, also stopped to help. The trio dove into the pond and swam some 50 feet to the sinking vehicle.

With the front half of the car submerged, Kane had crawled into the back seat. When his rescuers arrived, one opened a back door while Justin and the other grasped the elderly man's arms, pulled him from the car, and together swam back to the bank.

Justin later recalled that, as he was watching the car sink prior to diving into the pond, his instincts and a higher power took over and "I just jumped in." He thinks God wanted him to walk home that day rather than call his mom for a ride.

Mike Eash, a paramedic with Safety Harbor Fire Rescue, described the rescue effort as "amazing," especially since "there are snakes and there are alligators and it's cold [the water was 62 degrees], and it's amazing to see people, with no regard for their own safety, all three of them just jumped in right after that guy."

Kane told a sheriff's deputy at the scene that all three of his rescuers were his heroes. Kane was taken to a Safety Harbor hospital and was last reported to be in good condition. Regarding Justin, he told the Associated Press, "I owe my life to that young man," and wished the youngster good luck in his efforts to make the football team.

Justin modestly claims that Kane's real saviors were McBrayer and Brady. "They're more heroical than me," he insists. After changing into dry clothes following the incident, his main concern was whether his decision to leave the conditioning practice early would hurt his chances of making the team. "I really love football, and I hope the coaches understand," he told the Times. Learning of the youth's heroics, assistant coach Jared Davis told the paper that it sounded "like something he would do. He seems like he has a good heart."

Needless to say, Alice Gregorich, Justin's mother, agreed, telling the Times that her son has a "kind soul" and "would do this for anybody."
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Title Annotation:The Goodness Of America
Author:Lee, Robert W.
Publication:The New American
Date:Mar 22, 2004
Words:607
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