The May 21 city council meeting is my favorite each year, as we get a chance to recognized members of the South Milwaukee Police and Fire Departments and citizens for their heroic acts. I will feature one story each day on my blog. Please thank these everyday heroes!
“The Grant Park beach is enjoyed by countless citizens each day, and Sunday, June 17th, 2018, was no exception. With the warm weather of early summer, families were relaxing and enjoying cookouts while several children were swimming. 13-year-old Aaniyah Lucas was one of those children. As her mother watched from the beach, Aaniyah was swimming and holding on to a large inflatable toy. Suddenly, a day of enjoyment turned to panic. Aaniyah was approximately 100 yards from shore when she began to have difficulty breathing and was struggling to stay above the water.
Two men, complete strangers to the Lucas family, were on the beach and saw what was happening. These men immediately sprang into action. Mr. Lee VanDixhorn ran to the water and began swimming out to Aaniyah while Mr. Mark Anderson commandeered a kayak that he observed on shore and began paddling out. Both men quickly reached Aaniyah and held her above water, but they now had another problem. The kayak capsized during the event making the rescue even more difficult. That is when two other strangers, Luis Garcia and Cesar Mariscal, saw what was occurring and rode out on a jet ski to help them. All four men worked to get Aaniyah onto the jet ski and transport her safely to shore where the South Milwaukee Fire Department treated her. It was later determined that Aaniyah had an asthma attack while in the water, making it difficult to breathe and causing her to panic. She was conveyed to the hospital but was released a short while later and made a complete recovery.
It is often acknowledged that an individual’s character is revealed during difficult times, and as an author once noted, “It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop.” These men could have stood by like others did during this crisis, but they did not. This incident has a positive ending only because they quickly jumped into action and took risks to rescue a complete stranger. They demonstrated their character and, in so doing, wrote a great chapter in the life’s story for Aaniyah, for her family, and for themselves. For their actions to rescue a child on June 17th 2018, the South Milwaukee Police and Fire Departments hereby present to Lee VanDixhorn, Mark Anderson, Luis Garcia and Cesar Mariscal, a Citizen Recognition Award for Lifesaving. “