Sixteen-year-old Corian Evans, a Black teen, broke the rules and stayed out past his curfew, and three teenage girls are alive because of it. He was hanging out with friends below a highway (which I guess is what teens do these days for fun) when a car filled with several young women drove off a boat ramp into the frigid Pascagoula river. Why, you might ask? Apparently the driver had been obediently following bad instructions given to her by her GPS navigation system. Which answers that age-old question: If GPS asked your teen to drive off a boat dock, would they do it?
Immediately the car began to sink, and the girls climbed out the window and started screaming, clinging to the roof. It appears none of the girls could swim, at least not with any proficiency. That’s when Corian leapt into action, ripping off his shirt and shoes and diving into the alligator infested waters. (Alligator attacks on humans are extremely rare, especially at this time of the year, but hey, it makes the story sound so much cooler.)
Evans helped the first girl to safety, swimming her to shore while keeping her head above water. Police officer Gary Mercer then arrived to rescue a second girl, but halfway to shore she panicked and pulled him underwater. So Evans jumped back in and helped them both to shore.
That left 19-year-old Cora Watson struggling in the water. She couldn’t swim, and was gulping water, struggling to stay afloat. “I just knew my last breath was coming,” says Watson. but as she began to go under, she felt a strong jolt pulling her up. “Corian had grabbed me,” she says.
All three girls are alive because Corian broke his curfew. His mom can’t be mad at him after that. Yay for teens breaking the rules. (Okay, okay, I’m kidding–I can sense the stank eye some of you are giving me through this internet connection.)
Here are a few things I hope readers take away from this story:
1) Get your child into swim lessons early and often. We come across so many stories where the difference between life and death hinges upon a person’s ability to swim. Nor do they need to be swimming to encounter danger: there are car accidents, falling off a dock or boat, getting caught in a flood, stumbling into a pool, and so forth. We’re surrounded by water, and if a person can’t swim, it might as well be hot lava. Had these girls not happened to have had a guardian angel around, this story likely would have ended with three (and possibly four) obituaries. Had the girls been proficient swimmers, on the other hand, a dramatic rescue wouldn’t have been necessary in the first place. These girls were lucky, and many similar stories have a very different outcome.
2. Hooray for breaking stereotypes, not only because an African-American teen did something heroic while technically being ‘delinquent,’ but for breaking stereotypes about Black people and their ability to swim. Unfortunately, this is one of the few stereotypes that actually has merit: Black and minority children are less likely to know how to swim, and drown at much higher rates because of it. Let’s fix that.
3. Stories like this illustrate just how unpredictable life can be, and that you never can predict just what twists and turns it might take. Things we assume to be good often take a turn for the worse, and things we assume to be bad often lead to something good. Your teen might break the curfew and wind up in trouble…or they might end up saving three girls like a superhero. So let’s try to relax a little and stop overreacting to every little thing kids do just because it doesn’t fit our plan.
1. Andy Simmons, “Midnight plunge,” Readers Digest, Dec./Jan. 2022/2023, p. 14