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Late Teacher Receives Posthumous Award for Saving a Drowning Teen

Teacher’s selfless act of saving a drowning teen earns posthumous recognition for heroism.
PUBLISHED JUL 14, 2023
Stock image of a person drowning. Source: Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay
Stock image of a person drowning. Source: Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Thomas Kenning, a 38-year-old teacher, and father from St. Petersburg, Florida, is being honored posthumously for his bravery. Kenning was enjoying a day at Porter Beach in Indiana on June 27, 2022, accompanied by his 9-year-old daughter and parents, when he spotted a 16-year-old girl drowning in the water. Kenning heroically jumped in without delay and successfully brought her safely to shore. Unfortunately, he lost his own life in the process.



 

His wife, Jasmine, recalls the tragedy, speaking to TODAY.com in an email. She said, "After he handed his hat and cell phone to his mother, he ran toward the water and (our) daughter yelled out to him, 'Dad! Be careful!" She continued, " The first phone call I got was, 'Jasmine, there's been an accident. Tom heard someone was in trouble, and he jumped in the water to help her. The paramedics did CPR, and he's on his way to the hospital." After being submerged underwater for approximately 20 minutes, Thomas Kenning was retrieved by lifeguards at Indiana Dunes State Park.

Tragically, he was pronounced deceased at Northwest Health Hospital despite their efforts. The coroner determined his passing to be the result of an accidental drowning. The  National Park Service highlights the potential dangers of swimming in the lake, citing rip currents and powerful waves as factors that can make it unsafe. To commemorate his selfless act, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission is presenting Kenning with the prestigious Carnegie Medal, acknowledged as "North America's highest honor for civilian heroism."

The award is given to individuals who demonstrate exceptional bravery and courage in the face of danger. Kenning joins the ranks of 15 other recipients, including an off-duty border patrol agent who rescued children from a burning car, a ski instructor who saved an unconscious skier hanging from a ski lift, and a welder who rescued a drowning boy in Lake Michigan. The Carnegie Hero Fund's website showcases these inspiring stories of heroism and their lasting impact on communities.

Students being taught in a classroom. Source: William Vanderson/Fox Photos/Getty Images
Students being taught in a classroom. Source: William Vanderson/Fox Photos/Getty Images

Kenning worked as a middle school civics and world history teacher at Plato Academy Pinellas Park. In addition to his teaching career, he was a talented author and received a National Geographics scholarship. Jasmine expressed that Kenning had many exciting plans, including a trip to Antarctica, a destination he had always dreamt of visiting. According to her, Kenning was a humble man who wanted to help others. However, it is the ordinary moments that Jasmine holds dearest in her memories.

She cherishes how Kenning would greet her each morning with a heartfelt "Good morning, beautiful" and inquire about her dreams. She fondly recalls his gratitude for her making coffee, the familiar sound of his keys hitting the bowl as he arrived home from work. And every day, he would bid their daughter farewell with loving words, encouraging her to have a wonderful day at school, give her best, and show kindness to others.

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