It’s been awhile since I inducted a new member into my personal Hall of Fame, a meaningless but hallowed crowd of everyday people who are “anything but” who I occasionally meet in my morning readings. So today I ask you to gather around close to welcome a high school cross country runner from Memphis named Seth Goldstein.
You’ll like Seth. He’s a good-looking kid who attends a small Jewish high school in East Memphis called Cooper Yeshiva High. Several weeks ago he was running among the leaders in a big cross country meet when, as the pack zoomed through the second loop of the course, a runner nearby stumbled and went down. At the time, Seth liked his chances in the race.
He was feeling good, his legs were still strong and the heat wasn’t a bother. Plus, it’s not that big a deal when a runner trips on an outdoor course – they bounce right back up but lose a telling few seconds in the process as they fume over a shoelace or slippery leaves. Falling is a small part of cross country racing – getting back up and forging ahead is a huge part.
But as the field surged past the fallen runner, Seth pulled up and looked back because something seemed wrong. As he looked closer – the precious seconds ticking away and the other leaders moving fast towards the finish – Seth saw the fallen runner’s lips were turning blue and his eyes were rolled back. “It was obvious he needed help,” Seth recalled.
“I was terrified,” he told Geoff Calkins, a veteran columnist for the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “But then I thought to myself, freaking out isn’t going to help any here.”
So the calm high school senior, who has had training as a lifeguard, jumped in and went to work.
Remember, inwardly he was “terrified” but knew better than show it. He ordered a nearby parent to call 911 and then saw the blood. The downed runner, a kid from Germantown, had “bitten his tongue and was bleeding pretty bad. I rolled him on his side so he wouldn’t asphyxiate.”
The columnist wrote that a Germantown mother – who had known the fallen kid for years because he was a teammate of her son’s – ran up and described the unfolding scene. “I was in shock,” said Jessica Chandler,” but this guy was in complete control. He was like, ‘You – call 911’ and, ‘You – get some ice’ … I thought he was a parent or EMT or something.”
In the meanwhile, the victim was racked with repeated seizures, his body shaking severely, but Seth told the growing onlookers, “This is normal. I’ve seen it before. Everybody stay calm until the medics get here.”
You want the truth? Seth Goldstein had never seen anything like this before. Honest, yet this kid’s sense of calm, his steady hand on the fallen athlete, (and his “little white lie) seemed to relieve everybody. “He was awesome,” said Mrs. Chandler. “He was so competent and kind. When the boy started to come out of it, (Seth) leaned in and told him, ‘You are going to be OK. We are right here. We are with you. You are going to be OK now.’ He was awesome!”
When the ambulance roared up and the real EMTs jumped to help, Seth stood away with the gathered group, watching the professionals place the injured athlete on a stretcher, and then nearly shocked Mrs. Chandler and the others out of their shoes when he very politely asked the lead EMT, “Sir, do you think it would be alright if I finish the race now?”
“The EMTs looked at me sort of funny and they are like, ‘You’re racing?! … well, yeah, sure, go ahead. I guess you can finish the race.’”
So off Seth Goldstein went, racing towards the finish line in a race that all the other competitors had already completed. As he ran towards the crowd, a huge roar went up because – by then – word of our Good Samaritan had flashed through the crowd while others – who had not seen the tense scene unfold -- thought it was his first race and tried to encourage his slow finish
“Everyone was clapping for me, like I was some chunky kid who couldn’t finish. They were cheering and saying, ‘You can do it’ and I’m thinking, ‘C’mon, man,” he laughed, smiling at the memory of his teammates dashing towards him to run with him home. His time? A little over 34 minutes in a day that – quite frankly – will last a lifetime.
Gil Pert, the dean at Cooper Yeshiva High, was thrilled with Seth’s unselfish act. He told the writer Caulkins, “It’s an example of exactly the values we are trying to instill in our kids. They have the concept, from the Talmud, that if you want God to have mercy on you, you have to have mercy for others.”
The fallen runner was fine once the ER got enough fluids in him to counter his heat exhaustion and Seth Goldstein is now getting ready to play basketball. That’s the only reason he ran cross country anyway, just to get ready for hoops. There is one runner from Germantown who is very glad that he did.
And then there is Mrs. Chandler, the mother who heard Seth tell the crowd, “This is normal. I’ve seen this before.” She will never forget it as long as she lives, as well as his cameo line, “Sir, do you think it would be alright if I finish the race now?”
Hail our newest hero, Seth Goldstein.