CORNER BROOK — For 30 years, Jodi Delaney has wondered about the unsung heroes who pulled her out of Grand Lake.
It wasn’t until recently she found out who they were and got the opportunity to say thank you, and she has been singing their praises ever since.
Delaney was just five years old when she was spending some time camping at her family’s favourite vacation spot. She defied her father’s warnings of staying off a wharf, and the naiveté of that little girl helped propel her from a rope, swinging over the water and plunging her into it.
Not knowing how to swim, she still recalls sinking into the depths — amazingly, peacefully letting herself go.
“I remember the pin fish swimming in front of me and the bubbles floating to the surface,” Delaney said Monday from her home in White Rock, B.C. “It was kind of really nice actually. I wasn’t panicked or urging to get out. I didn’t know I was drowning at that point.”
From the shoreline though, it was a different spectacle. Blair Cooper, then just 13- or 14 years old was building a raft with his friend Robert Matthews. He recalls seeing the young children playing with the rope swing they had earlier put on the wharf themselves.
He says he didn’t think much of it at the time, just knew they were young. However, when he heard a splash and noticed another young girl appeared scared looking over the wharf, he said he knew something wasn’t right. He ran to the wharf and jumped in after the small girl, who he said was floating hauntingly still in the water by this time.
He swam her into the wharf, where he said Matthews helped her out. Cooper recalls the girl being pretty well OK, which he said was strange given he thought she might have already drowned because of her stillness in the water.
He remembers the girls father in a panicked state, and later getting a visit from the same man, while he was in tears, thanking him for his bravery. It was a proud moment in the young teenager’s life, one the Stephenville native told numerous times in the years that followed.
That was the side of the story that remained a mystery to the little girl from Corner Brook. She said her father, who died in 2000, refused to talk about the near tragedy, and she had never known the two boys that saved her life that day.
That all changed in recent weeks, when Delaney and Cooper’s mothers met at Grand Lake. The campsite neighbours started sharing a familiar story from 30 years prior, amazed to learn it was their children who were the subjects.
Delaney finally had the full story to tell.
“It’s been a mystery for so long,” she said. “It’s almost like a new life for the story. I have told this story so many times and I had nobody to relate it to — it was just my story with no witness — and now Blair has come into it. I think the turn of events is pretty phenomenal.”
She called Cooper, finally getting the opportunity to say thank you after all these years.
“They had been somewhat of unsung heroes in my life for 30 years,” she said, choking back the tears. “ ... It has been minimized for 30 years. It’s been just a story for 30 years. I think it is time for those guys to understand really how fragile that moment was, and how they came through.”
Delaney has a 13-year-old daughter and 12-, two- and one-year-old sons. She said the efforts of those young two teenage boys that day on Grand Lake has had a great impact on many people’s lives.
For Cooper, that telephone call was also an amazing turn of events to a story he passed along time-after-time. He said he was congratulated by people around Grand Lake 30 years ago, and felt really proud of it. However, he said getting that call from Delaney was special.
“It was amazing,” he said. “It was awesome to hear from her. It was like one of those old high school reunions, but with a little more importance.”
Cooper has since shared the story with his two sons, and takes a lot of pride in knowing his boys are now singing his praises.