During a church get-together, a mother’s worst nightmare unfolded when a child ran over to tell her that her 4-year-old had disappeared into the ground. Little did she know that a 12-year-old girl was about to risk her life to save the boy.
Shayna Sykes was enjoying her time at an outdoor church gathering in Buffalo, Minnesota, when her boys, 7-year-old Nolan and 4-year-old Rowan, told her they wanted to go play with the other children, she told KARE 11. She was concerned about them wandering off, but another mother assured her that they would be safe with the older kids.
“I shouted after them, ‘Stay where I can see you!’ A couple of the other moms laughed and were like, ‘Oh, he’s with the herd; he’s fine,'” said Sykes, who was located in the church’s backyard.
Sykes says it couldn’t have been more than a couple of minutes later and her older son came sprinting back with a terrified look on his face. His next words sent chills down her spine.
“He’s like, ‘Rowan fell into a sewer’ and I don’t even know what happened after that,” Sykes said.
Sykes ran as fast as she could to where the children had been playing. However, she didn’t see 4-year-old Rowan anywhere. As she drew nearer, she spotted something sticking up out of the ground. It was the legs of a preteen girl, who was hanging halfway down an open manhole just large enough to hold a child.
Hanging onto the ledge with all her might was 12-year-old Sadie Peterson. The girl had seen Rowan fall straight into the deep well of sewage and disappear below the surface. Without hesitation, Sadie dove toward the opening. She managed to grab the child and pull him up, keeping his head just above the water level so he could breathe.
Sadie said Rowan was moving away from the main opening, adding, “Eventually I grabbed his hand and pulled him over and then got him to the point where his face wasn’t underwater.”
Sadie had been clinging to the boy’s arm to prevent him from sinking when she screamed for his brother to get help. Incredibly, she was able to hold him until a man named Tim Dubois reached the pair, pulling them out just as Shayna Sykes arrived.
“I could see half of her body in a hole and I’m picturing the worst, like my baby’s dead,” Sykes said. “I got there and I saw his head kind of above the water like gasping and she’s holding him. He was covered… I mean… submerged, covered in sewage and sludge and feces. I just sat on the ground, hugged him, and cried and cried.”
Rowan was rushed to the hospital with a few bruises. He was then monitored for signs of pneumonia, which may have occurred if he aspirated feces. After Rowan was released from the hospital, Sykes and Sadie had an emotional reunion.
“You were exactly where you were supposed to be and you are exactly who God created you to be,” Sykes told Sadie. “You saved him and I don’t think he’d be here if you weren’t here. I’m so thankful that God put you here today.”
As a thank-you for her heroic deed, Sykes created a Go Fund Me for Sadie. The little girl had saved Rowan on her birthday, and Sykes hopes to raise enough money to buy her a bow she has wanted for hunting.
Sadie has been hailed a hero, but she still shudders at the thought that if she had not been there, Rowan would have been lost forever.
“Scary. I thought I was going to slip and let him go on accident and then I was so far deep down that I thought I was going to fall in,” Sadie said.
Sadie not only stepped in to help without hesitation, but she also risked her own life to save the little boy. Had she slipped in too, she would have been face-down in the liquid without room to turn right-side-up and climb out.
A horrific outcome was prevented thanks to this brave little girl’s quick thinking and selflessness. However, the incident proves just how tragedy can strike anywhere, even at a place where everyone assumes they are safe.