Teen rescues brother after lifeguard lesson

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 27, 2000

Torrey Groce does not consider himself a hero. He’s just a Natchez teenager who helped rescue his brother, Shomari Washington, 18, this summer while they were swimming at a Salvation Army camp for the Boys and Girls Club in Atlanta.

&uot;I’d do it for anybody, but especially Shomari,&uot; said Groce, 16. &uot;He’s my best friend.&uot;

The two teenagers were camping at Stone Mountain Park when they decided to go swimming in the camp’s lake.

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Groce had waded out into the lake when he heard Washington, a special needs student with a special education certificate from Natchez High School, struggling in the water behind him.

&uot;It was like he was petrified (he was) so scared,&uot; Groce said.

So Groce said he pulled his brother to the shallow end of the lake while giving him assuring comments. I told him &uot;don’t worry about it. I got you,&uot; Groce said.

The act may seem simple, but Washington knows he needed his brother help that day.

In his mind, Groce is a hero.

&uot;Sometimes he has to watch out for me,&uot; Washington said.

Groce said their mother, Ruth Groce, is always telling him to look out for his brother.

Fortunately, Groce had just completed a lifeguard course prior to attending the camp through the Red Cross. He said that training gave him the presence of mind he needed that day. Without the training, Groce said he &uot;would probably have (started) to scream or something.&uot;

In life guard training, Groce learned not to show his nervousness, to be professional and to be supportive and caring toward the person he is trying to help. But he did not expect to to use those skills so so. &uot;I was hoping I’d never have to use them,&uot; he said.

After camp, Groce spent the rest of the summer life guarding at a Salvation Army camp in Lexington.

He plays football at Natchez High and is active in the Salvation Army serving as a soldier, as part of the Silent Thunder Drama team and the League of Mercy service group. He is considering a career with the Salvation Army when he finishes college.

&uot;He’s a consistent kid,&uot; said Lt. Bobby Westmoreland of the Salvation Army. &uot;It’s good to see that in kids today.&uot;