U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith presented the Carnegie Medal to Carnegie Hero Rayna Michele Montgomery at a Sept. 6 ceremony held at the Virginia Motorsports Museum and Hall of Fame in Stuart, Virginia.
When Rayna was 17, she helped rescue a girl who was struggling in the Atlantic Ocean more than 100 feet from shore in Kure Beach, North Carolina. Rayna swam to the girl and towed her back toward the beach, but the panicky girl submerged Rayna multiple times. A man took the girl from Rayna at a point about 15 feet from the beach; Rayna exited the ocean to the beach, where she vomited water she had swallowed. Another rescuer who also responded drowned in her attempted rescue.
“I will tell you there is nothing I honor higher than courage. The courage to do something like this is amazing. While you may not have thought about it at the time, there were lots of other people on the beach who didn’t do what you did, who didn’t have that instinct to go into the water,” said Griffith to reporters who attended the ceremony.
Montgomery said she was spurred to act because she heard that kids were in trouble.
“They were like, ‘there are kids drowning,’ and as soon as I heard ‘kids,’ it was just a heart drop, and I have to help them because they’re kids,” she told reporters. “You hear ‘kids,’ and you have to help them.”