Rauner honors Buffalo Grove resident's heroism
Thursday was Duncan O.C. Harris Day in Illinois.
Did you know that? There were no parades for the Buffalo Grove resident. No special treats. No days off school.
Maybe you missed it.
But for the family of the teen Harris saved from drowning, one day surely doesn't seem like enough.
"Duncan did not hesitate for a minute in putting his own life in danger in order to save this boy's life," Gov. Bruce Rauner said during Thursday's recognition ceremony in Springfield. "His brave and courageous actions reflect the very best of the people of Illinois, and we are proud to call him one of our own."
Harris, then 21, was vacationing at a beach house in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, on July 28, 2015, when he heard children screaming for help. He saw a boy struggling in choppy water a few hundred feet from the shore.
He waded into the water, joining another man, Peter Pontzer, 51, of Fairfax, Va., who grabbed a life buoy. The pair reached the boy, a 13-year-old who had been swimming with a church group.
"He was in shock, floating on his back," Harris told Pioneer Press in December.
The boy was too weak to hold the buoy, so Harris carried him while swimming. The boy, Harris and Pontzer returned to shore, just as another boy began to struggle.
Pontzer took the buoy back into the water, while Harris helped emergency responders unload Jet Skis, he said in December.
The second boy was brought back to shore but later died.
The 13-year-old, Harris and Pontzer were all treated at a nearby hospital. Harris was sickened by the large amount of salt water he swallowed during the rescue.
Harris has largely shied away from the accolades he's received.
"To me, it's just one of those things," Harris, now 23, told Pioneer Press. "When it happened, I acted."
A lance corporal and mechanic in the Marine Corps Forces Reserve, Harris also has been awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Medal.
In December, he was one of 21 people awarded the Carnegie Medal. Established in 1904, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission has honored nearly 10,000 people for performing acts of heroism in civilian life.