DESTIN, Fla. — While on spring break from classes at KU, three Sigma Phi Epsilon brothers were put to the test on a beach in Destin, Florida.
“We were all just sitting in our lawn chairs, and a mom comes running up from the water and is frantically yelling for a lifeguard or for help,” Cole Firmature said.
Conor Churchill, Jared Cox and Firmature saw no lifeguard around and sprang into action.
“I kind of started looking around, and by then I looked back and Jared and Cole were already taking off for the water,” Churchill said. “So I was like, ‘Shoot, I guess we’re doing this,’ and we just started swimming.”
At first, they couldn’t see the Texas boy due to bad weather, roaring waves and thick fog. A boogie board led them to the boy who was holding on for dear life.
“He was just floating there, honestly,” Firmature said.
Churchill went on to explain, “There was a rip current. So what was happening was he just kept getting pushed further and further out.”
They eventually reached the terrified little boy and began their journey back to shore.
“He had absolutely no idea how to swim, though,” Cox said.
The young men found themselves in over their heads with the strong rip current. They created a chain to get back to land where a sea of people and a thankful mother were clapping in awe.
“She grabbed him and was holding him, and you could see on her face tears and thankfulness,” witness Kaci Gilchrist said.
The praise continued from the beach to Facebook after Gilchrist wrote a post thanking the young men for their courageous effort.
“It was pretty cool for them being that young and just jumping in and doing what needed to be done,” she said.
Gilchrist is a mother of three from Kansas. She and her family were vacationing in Destin when they saw the entire situation unfold. She said her children learned a lesson, while the three KU students passed the unexpected test.
“The whole day we were staying close to shore because all them, my kids, realized wow that, that could happen to me,” Gilchrist said.
“We’re just happy that everything worked out,” the three KU juniors said in unison.
“They can still have their family vacation and not have anything else to worry about,” Firmature said.
“Absolutely,” Cox agreed.