Last Jan. 28, Justin Gregorich joined other potential football players in his school’s weightlifting room for a scheduled conditioning practice. He was hoping to try out for the junior varsity football team this fall.
At five-foot-three and 130 pounds, Justin hardly fit the typical football player’s profile. He could bench press 65 pounds and squat 125, figures that caused other athletes to make fun of him. Justin also has Tourette’s syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder, differences that have resulted in a lifetime of taunts and jeers and made school difficult for him.
That day, the laughter, jokes and name-calling stung particularly hard. Justin tried to tune them out, but he finally grew frustrated and left practice early. He normally called his mother to pick him up, but that day he decided to walk home, a mile or so away.
“The weird thing was, I didn’t really want to leave football,” he said later. “I just left because I got this urge.”
As he walked along the side of the road, he worried about the coach’s reaction to his leaving early and wondered whether it would lessen his chances of making the team.
Suddenly, a car veered out of control, nearly striking him. It ran off the road, knocked down a sign, crashed through a chain-link fence, hit a drainage culvert and plunged grill-first into a pond.
Justin immediately began to run toward the sinking car. “It happened so fast. I turned my head and bam! The car was in the water.”
The terrified driver couldn’t get the doors or windows open but managed to get to the back seat, which was slightly higher in the rapidly sinking car.
Justin quickly took off his shoes and pants and dove into the 62-degree water. Two other men who were driving by saw what had happened, so they too stopped and jumped in to help. After several minutes of struggle, one of the men finally got the car’s back door open, and Justin and the other man grabbed the driver and swam 50 feet to the bank, carrying him to safety.
Raymond J. Kane, a retired aerospace industry manager, had fallen asleep at the wheel for the first time in his life. He had been regularly making the 100-mile trip from his home in Orlando to Clearwater, where the accident occurred, for several months following a motorcycle accident that had killed his daughter-in-law and seriously injured his son. He was returning to Clearwater again to help his son.
Justin knew the pond had snakes and alligators in it, and he was only an average swimmer. “I just wanted to get to the car,” he said. “I’m just glad that Mr. Kane is okay.”
“It doesn’t work to leap a 20-foot chasm in two 10-foot jumps,” according to an old American proverb.
Sometimes, in life and in God’s work, we’ve got to make one big jump. The greater risk is to do nothing at all.
Jan Turrentine is managing editor of Acacia Resources.