‘I’m going in’: Tacoma police honor teen for summer rescue

If Noah McDonald becomes a certified lifeguard as he’s considering this winter, he’ll probably be the only one in class with a rescue under his belt.

Tacoma police on Oct. 14 honored the 15-year-old School of the Arts sophomore with a Medal of Courage for rescuing another teenager from Commencement Bay this summer.

McDonald was with friends July 6 at the Old Town Dock on the Ruston waterfront. They had planned to jump in the water but decided it was too cold.

Noah ended up going in anyway, to rescue a 17-year-old girl struggling in the water.

“We talked about it for a second, but then Noah was like: ‘I’m going in,’” said 16-year-old Amaya Fox, one of the friends who was there that day. “What he did was pretty heroic and selfless, and he just did it without any hesitation.”

McDonald said later he didn’t really think before jumping in. He took off his shoes and his shirt, then “just went in,” he said.

A former chief lifeguard from New York happened to be there, and was on his way to the water to help, but McDonald got there first. The man told officials that, based on his experience, the girl would have drowned without McDonald’s help.

He brought the girl to shore, where she told police the frigid water had made her legs stop working, and that McDonald saved her life.

Afterward, McDonald and friends went out for frozen yogurt and his mom picked them up.

“They got in the car, and one of the girls said: ‘Noah is a hero,’” Jen McDonald recalled. “They told me then what happened. It was just out of the blue, and I was just super shocked and super proud of him.”

McDonald’s brother, a high school senior who works as a lifeguard for Metro Parks Tacoma, was proud of him as well.

Still, he had some tips in case McDonald needs to plunge into action again.

“He told me how you’re supposed to actually pull someone to shore,” McDonald said. “Apparently I didn’t do it the right way, but that’s OK.”