Once they were in the water, Tumilowicz decided it would be safer and faster for him to pull the boys toward the pier. Christian and Jack were wearing life jackets and floated on their backs. Tumilowicz held the tops of their jackets in one hand and sidestroked with the other arm toward land.
He swam desperately as water washed over the boys’ faces.
“Are we almost there?” they asked again and again. “Yes,” Tumilowicz assured them each time.
After 30 minutes, they reached the pier. They scrambled up a metal beam to the dock and huddled there until a Coast Guard boat picked them up and took them to a waiting ambulance. Tumilowicz, even though mildly hypothermic and exhausted from his exertions, greeted the boys’ parents with a smile when they finally arrived.
To Christian’s father, Mike Pryfogle, Tumilowicz had been a stranger before that day. Now, he was the man who risked his life to save Pryfogle’s son. “You’re a hero,” he told Tumilowicz repeatedly. “You’re a hero.”