I talked with the reporter from the News & Observer earlier this week.
And I always clam up when I talk to someone on the phone about anything official.
I had a lot to tell her about Chad, but just couldn’t seem to find the words at that moment.
I am a much better writer than speaker, since I can gather my thoughts coherently and take the time to put in some effort.
When we hung up, she asked me to shoot her an email if I decided there was anything else I wanted to include about Chad for the story (which will be published Thursday, December 23 – I will post a link and the story).
And about five minutes after our conversation ended, I remembered something.
Something that directly tells you what kind of person Chad was.
And I can’t believe I haven’t thought about it in years.
Chad was humble.
He didn’t want special recognition for something he felt he should do anyway.
He didn’t brag about anything he had accomplished and he didn’t make anyone feel like less of a person for not having the same gift of knowledge that he possessed.
And this is just one example.
In mid-June of 2001, Tropical Storm Allison hit Raleigh with nasty flooding.
Chad and I were so bored.
We wanted to see something more than the walls of my apartment and the constant Allison coverage on television.
So, we decided it was smart to head out in the rain to survey all the damage ourselves.
And we each needed to go get groceries.
We drove around, looking at the flood waters and shaking our heads in dismay at all of the damage. It was devastating.
We finally made our way to the grocery store – and just happened to see a SUV pull into an apartment complex to our right.
We both looked at each with sheer panic at the same time; the SUV’s lights started to sink into water.
It suddenly hit us that the driver had not turned into a drenched parking lot.
Instead, it was a severely engorged pond.
And the SUV was sinking.
Without thought, he floored his truck as close as he could get to the site.
He handed me his wallet.
And he ran.
There were so many thoughts that hit me at that moment:
What if he got hurt?
We were getting married in less than two months – what if he drowned trying to save someone else?
Could he swim well enough to actually help someone?
And then I saw him – running, swimming – to the SUV.
A woman opened the driver’s side door and started screaming, “My baby! My baby!”
I could feel my heartbeat in my chest growing louder and faster.
Could he get the woman out and save a baby before the vehicle filled with water?
The woman was hysterical, as she should have been.
She was screaming, “I can’t swim! We can’t swim!”
He put an arm around her and swam her to a place where she could stand and walk the rest of the way, all the while wailing for her child.
He turned right back around and headed back to the SUV, which was visibly sinking into the dark water.
And just then, a young teenager, popped out of the passenger side, clinging to Chad. He went under.
I thought I was going to be sick.
Chad popped right back up from the water and they both made it to the girl’s mother, who was obviously shaken – but thankful.
I was screaming for help, drenched and full of adrenaline.
I am not a very strong swimmer and knew I should stay put – someone would only get hurt if I tried to help.
After hearing my cries for help in broken Spanish (I heard people yelling in Spanish from the apartment balconies and a nearby restaurant – I was trying to get their attention), another man came along and ran into the water towards the SUV, but wasn’t able to do much by that point.
Chad was always prepared and carried a few towels in his truck.
He gave them to the woman and her daughter, as they cried and thanked him profusely.
We hung around until the paramedics arrived; I had called them as soon as we saw the truck sink.
Then, we left.
We went on to the grocery store; soaked and full of nervous energy.
He insisted we stand under the awning for a while in an attempt to dry off some.
If you knew Chad, you know he was very protective of that truck of his; the seats couldn’t be damaged by our waterlogged clothes.
Skipping a day or two — my memory doesn’t serve me well.
Chad & I are watching the news, when we see a story about a woman and her daughter who were pulled from an apartment complex pond.
We both smiled, and I gave him a huge pat on the back.
He honestly saved their lives.
The phone rang.
And it was a reporter.
Someone (and I know who) let them know it was Chad, my stunningly handsome fiance, who had pulled the two from the submerged vehicle.
Chad declined an interview and a reuniting with the now dry victims.
He declined a few times.
And the reporter didn’t give up.
He called for days after the initial decline.
Sometimes multiple times a day.
Chad, after I reassured him it was perfectly okay to accept a public thank you from the women, consented to an interview.
We both left work early and waited for the reporter to show up at the apartment.
We nervously rehearsed what we would say – and he was so nervous. Though he tried hard not let on that he was.
I hoped I could sit in the background and allow him to have the full limelight; he deserved it. He was the one who sprinted into dark flood waters to save two lives. Not I. I just screamed on the banks and prayed for everyone’s safety. I was not a hero. He, clearly, was.
Unfortunately, another news story broke and Chad was never interviewed.
He never received his fifteen minutes of fame.
And that’s just the way he liked it.
I knew, without even thinking twice and before this event I described above, that I wanted to be Chad’s wife and partner for life.
I knew that he would be an excellent provider and protector.
I knew that he would always do the right thing, no matter the circumstance.
And that day, when he selflessly risked his life to help someone else — well, it just cemented my faith in our future.
He was everything I wanted in a partner and more.
He was fearless. He was humble. He was just himself.
And he was pretty extraordinary.
* I am trying to get my hands on the actual news report so I can show it to the girls one day.
If I am lucky enough to happen across it, I will be sure to share it.