Thursday, July 30, 2009

Photographer becomes part of the story.

What happens when you’re covering the news and you suddenly become part of it?

That’s the question that was answered Wednesday as I was scouting for photographs to accompany a Lake Erie water quality story at the beach located near Osborne Park in Willoughby.

I no sooner set out with three cameras around my neck when I heard screams for help coming from Lake Erie.

I called to a couple of disc golfers to see if they also heard the screams and we conferred. I prepared to call 911 as I asked the golfers dressed in shorts if they could swim and if they wanted to try and swim out to the two distressed swimmers.

I told the men not to put themselves at risk if they were uncomfortable going into the choppy water and that emergency help was on the way. Without hesitation the two friends looked at each other and took to the water. As police arrived they began interviewing me as I was taking photographs of the rescue.

The Fire Department had arrived and threw a float bag to the four men in the lake as they were now about 30 yards from shore.

It was a little surreal flagging the police to where the swimmers were as I’m more accustomed to being kept at a distance by the police as opposed to actually assisting them.

At this point I was determined to capture the heroics of these two good Samaritans as they worked their way to shore.

I’m so glad the golfers Kevin McCollum and Andrew Kalar were there as I seriously doubt I could have been as much help to the swimmers by myself and probably would have just called 911 and ran for more help.

As it turned out, the swimmers were safely brought ashore and the police and fire were both quick to arrive and didn’t prohibit me from doing my job.

I respected the plight of the swimmers and kept my distance so as not to exasperate the situation as they made land. I couldn’t resist high fiving the rescuers as they came out of the water after handing the swimmers over to emergency personnel.

I can honestly say that in all my years of covering high profile professional athletes, musicians and the occasional celebrity, I’ve never been more impressed than I was to witness these two unselfish men come ashore.

I told them they were awesome and that they did a great job. This was truly one situation where the general public, media and safety service forces worked very well together.

Michael Blair
Staff Photographer


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