By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – The city of Warsaw unveiled a new way to spotlight life-saving heroics and found a unique recipient to begin the tradition.
Seventeen-year-old Connor Suissi was honored during Tuesday night’s city council meeting Sept. 7, after being credited with saving several young girls off the shores of Lake Michigan at a Michigan City beach on June 20.
The senior at Warsaw Community High School and a member of the football team had been at the beach with his family for a few hours before a busload of youngsters arrived and headed straight to the cool water.
Suissi had been aware of some existing rip tide dangers earlier and then noticed signs of distress among some of the girls.
If not for the quick action, it could have been a totally different story, said Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer during a presentation Tuesday night.
Thallemer said he was impressed with Suissi’s ability and instincts and the sincerity he showed afterward.
Suissi’s mother, Jaimee Suissi, followed Connor into the water to also help. Both are credited for saving four girls.
“He knew what he had to do,” Thallemer said. “Somebody needed to act and this young man acted. Not to take away from his mother’s heroism … Connor led the charge.”
Connor said he thought of his sisters when he saw signs of distress and felt impelled to do what he hoped others would do for his sisters.
“Really, I just wanted to make sure those girls didn’t die out there,” Suissi told those at the council meeting, including much of his immediate family.
Jaimee Suissi teared up as she stood alongside Connor and the mayor. She said she was proud of the fact that he didn’t think twice before heading out into the water.
Suissi received a plaque and a Life Saving Award medal designed for the first occasion. The new award is intended for civilians and emergency responders.
The proclamation recognized Suissi’s selfless life-saving action that “will serve as an inspiration to others.”
Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory EMS Coordinator Chris Fancil presented the medal and said others can learn from Suissi’s outlook.
“We couldn’t be more proud of what you did. You didn’t do it for yourself. You did it as a response because you knew it was the right thing to do,” Fancil said.
Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory Chief Michael Wilson also attended the ceremony. He said he could not recall ever honoring a civilian for a heroic deed, let alone a teenager.
“Thank you for what you did,” Wilson said. “It was priceless.”