Millions of Americans celebrate our independence as they get together with friends, family and gobs of food for a blissful day at the beach or park followed by oohs and ahs at Fourth of July fireworks displays. But for two young women in Michigan with a special bond, this year’s annual commemoration marked the fifth anniversary of a truly special and personal event.
The weather forecast for July 3, 2006 was typical for the time of year – a hot day followed by an evening with a chance of showers. Residents of St. Joseph, Michigan and hundreds of other shorefront communities throughout the country gathered on the beach in anticipation of watching the rockets’ red, white, blue, green and gold glare. There were ominous clouds forming in the distance, but everyone thought the show would go on and be over before the rains came. Unfortunately, a storm formed suddenly, leaving lots of people in the path of a violent squall.
Lyndsay Prager, a then 10-year-old from Kansas, was spending the holiday weekend with her grandparents in southwest Michigan. Jessica Worthington, a then 15-year-old high school student from nearby Dowagiac, had also come to Silver Beach to watch the fireworks. But before anyone could safely find shelter, a big bolt of lightning struck Prager, as she and other family members were trying to find refuge in her grandfather’s truck.
Seconds after Worthington heard the loud clap of thunder, she heard a frantic cry for help. Dale Whiteaker, Prager’s grandfather, pleaded with anyone who could hear him that his granddaughter had been struck and needed CPR. Worthington, who was riding out the storm in her family’s car, had been trained in CPR and other life-saving techniques in her high school health class and responded immediately. She jumped out of the car, started CPR and resuscitated Prager. Prager was later taken to the hospital where she received treatment for her injuries and was released days later.
We all have our special foods, favorite places and ways to commemorate holidays. For Worthington and Praeger, nothing could ever top their reunion dinner at Silver Beach on July 3, 2011. They and their families got together at a pizza restaurant just steps away from the spot where a second chance at life was miraculously made possible by a good Samaritan with CPR training. It was truly a unique and wonderful way for these now friends-for-life to celebrate.