Monday, April 15, 2024

The making of a hero


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Lennux Ferdinand is an information technology consultant. He is also a hero.
When he plunged more than 100 feet from a cliff at Long Bay, St Philip, into the turbulent waves of a raging Atlantic Ocean to assist with the rescue of a Canadian visitor, heroism was the farthest thing from his mind. The Barbados Bravery Medal awardee said: “I think the Father above was the one that did it.”
He could not resist the frantic cries for assistance coming from Jan Wesson, who with her husband Bill owns Coral Cove House in St Philip. He was at the time busy doing routine maintenance work on the Wessons’ computer.
“Mrs Wesson came rushing in ‘Lennux, please come and help Mark’ and I ran outside and looked over the cliff probably about 150 feet, quite a deep drop. Mark was screaming for help. I had to get down there.”
In the waters below Lennux saw Mark Martindale, the landscape contractor for the Wesson property, struggling to save someone.
“He had this chap and he just could not bring him in because the wave was taking both of them out further. I went to them and I went in the water and I said, ‘Grab his feet’ while I was grabbing his shoulder.”
The two were struggling to stay afloat when all three were hit by a wave.
“It knocked Mark away and I stood still and I grabbed hold of both of the gentleman’s legs. Mark then got himself together and grabbed him again and then we waited until the next wave came through and we rode that wave with him all the way to the beach.”
In the midst of it all they forgot the cardinal rule in life-saving – do not struggle with the waves.
“For some reason somebody up above told us to do that because we were doing the wrong thing in the first place because this guy was lifeless. His body was limp.”  
The Canadian visitor they saved was Ewen Alexander, 70, who Lennux said often swam with friends in Shark Hole. That morning he had however drifted a long way from that area and was alone.
Vincentian-born Lennux learnt to swim after a near-drowning as a seven-year-old in a swimming pool at Westminster Lodge in England where he grew up.
The next time he came close to a watery death, it was in Greece.  He was reclining on an inflated bed, soaking in the Greek sunshine, when he fell asleep and began to drift.
“I heard the noise of the engine of a boat and when I opened my eyes I could not see land.”  
As he reflected, he was fully awakened to the reality that without being sighted by the crew of that passing ship, he would have been in deep trouble. The crew rescued him, taking him back to shore.
Lennux considers the January 2013 ordeal a bit of déjà vu of what he had experienced in 2008. Then he had taken a group of 20 young Barbadian footballers on a customary trip to Foul Bay Beach to “soak off” after an intense coaching session.  As always he had warned them of the possibility of catching cramps if they ventured out too far and ordered all of them to stay with the group.
But boys will be boys, and in exuberance one of them did drift far away from the group when suddenly, a cramp set in.
Instinct catapulted Lennux to the boy’s aid. In panic the youngster threw himself on top of his coach pushing Lennux under the water.  The experienced swimmer knew instantly they were both in trouble.
“I remember distinctly thinking I cannot allow this boy to drown, so I decided to go with him.”
In desperation he resorted to prayer. “Please God, help me” the experienced swimmer called out, at the same time pushing the teenager off him. Once he had  succeeded in getting the boy off and regained control of the situation, Lennux departed from his characteristic gentle handling of the boys to threaten – “If you do not lie still, I am going to leave you here.”
Miraculously he saw his prayer being answered in a big wave which came rushing towards them, and which enabled him to push the youngster towards the shore, carrying him safely back to the beach.
But it left him in trouble, taking him back out to sea. “That wave said ‘you only asked for him. You did not ask for you.’” Lennux said the battle he waged to save his own life on this occasion was “worse than what I did here.”
The incident sits at the back of his mind, a reminder that “the sea can be dangerous even if you know what you are doing.”
His consolation looking back on the experience is it was not yet his time.
“If it was time to go I would have gone.”


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