U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, left, is pictured with Carnegie Hero Marena L. Kouba and Hero Fund President Eric Zahren, at her award presentation on July 22, 2022, at Fire Lake Grill House in Bloomington, Minnesota. Kouba was awarded the Carnegie Medal for her July 19, 2020, act in which she rescued Eric E.J. Benac and two children from drowning in Lake Superior in Marquette, Michigan.
“Love is the greatest power in the universe,” said Zahren during the presentation, while referring to the verse from John 15:13 that appears on every Carnegie Medal. “Risking one’s own life to save another human life is the full and greatest possible exercise of that love.”
Benac, an 11-year-old boy, and a 10-year-old girl were wading atop a shoal in Lake Superior when a swift current carried Benac and the girl into deep water. The boy swam toward them and also became caught in the current. The boy and girl screamed for help. Despite rough water in the lake, Kouba, 21, college student, dived from the shoal and swam several hundred feet to Benac, and told him to hold onto her. Kouba, with Benac holding her hand, then swam to the boy and girl who were nearby. As they floated supine atop the water’s surface, Kouba told the boy and girl to take hold of her hand, and she swam, using one arm and kicking with her legs, toward shore. Kouba yelled out for someone to bring rescue equipment, and others on shore swam about 100 feet to reach them. They assisted Benac, the boy, and the girl to the beach.
Emmer represents Minnesota’s sixth district.