When Zachary Smith, 8, found his mother unconscious, he stayed calm and quickly did exactly the right thing.
By JULIANNE WU
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 22, 2001
SEMINOLE -- After he called 911 when his mother passed out Sunday evening, Zachary Smith thought he was in big trouble.
Instead, he ended up a hero in the eyes of his family and Seminole Fire Rescue Department firefighters. On Wednesday Zachary, who turns 9 next week, was given a certificate of bravery by firefighters David Hudak, Michael Davis and William Morelli.
In a ceremony in Zachary's third-grade classroom at Seminole Elementary School, he was cited for bravery.
The incident occurred shortly after 11 p.m. Sunday in the Smiths' Seminole home while Lisa Smith was sleeping in bed with her two daughters, ages 6 and 2.
"When my husband, Garry, isn't home, I have the girls sleep with me," said Mrs. Smith. Her husband works in Fort Lauderdale as the manager of a used car dealership. Somehow Sunday night, one of her daughters rolled over and ripped off one of Mrs. Smith's acrylic fingernails -- and the real thumbnail underneath.
"I was freaking out," said Mrs. Smith. "My fingernail was just hanging by a thread and there was blood all over the place."
After hearing his mom scream, the 8-year-old ran to the bathroom where he found Mrs. Smith, who has low blood sugar, passed out.
"I shook her a little to see if she was breathing," said Zachary.
Within seconds, he called 911.
"Thank God, we live right behind the Fire Department (Station No. 29)," Mrs. Smith said.
Mrs. Smith had regained consciousness by the time firefighters arrived a couple of minutes later. They tended to her hand.
Zachary thought he was in trouble. "A few years ago, he got mad at me for something and called 911. He did get in trouble," Mrs. Smith said.
But not this time.
"I think he's really responsible," his mother said. "It's awesome."
Zachary was surprised to see the firefighters again Wednesday. "My first word was "Wow!' " said the soft-spoken boy. Breaking into a big smile, he added: "But the minute I saw them, I knew they were there for me."
"I think he's pretty special for what he did," said Hudak. "He remained calm and did what he had to do. He was still on the phone with the 911 operator when we walked in the door."
Garry Smith said of his son: "He did a great job. When I'm gone, he's the man of the house."
After receiving his certificate, a plastic firefighter's helmet and other goodies, Zachary and his family went outside to see a Seminole firetruck. Zachary and his sisters got to sit in the truck, with the young hero in the driver's seat.
Then, Zachary and his family returned to Ms. Butler's classroom to have cake with everyone.