While most of us have our own beliefs about what makes a hero, Anthony Perez is, by anyone's definition, a hero. His actions on a cold February day forever changed both his life and the life of his friend.
New York native, Anthony, age 11 and his 12-year-old friend, Juan Umpierrez, were both students at P.S./I.S. 113Q in Queens, New York. On a February afternoon, the two decided to go to nearby Forest Park together after school to play since the weather was a bit warmer than it had been in a while.
As Juan got further out on the ice, it began to slowly crack under his feet. Suddenly, it gave way completely, and he plunged into the icy water. Anthony, who was standing safely on the shore, heard his friend cry out for help as he fell and swung into action.
The two friends had been at the park for about an hour when tragedy struck. While playing around Strack Pond, Juan accidentally ran out onto the ice. The ice around the edges of the pond had been thick enough to hold his weight, but the center had begun to melt with the warmer days.
Anthony was able to reach his struggling friend Juan and push him out of the icy water, but then tragedy struck. Anthony himself slipped into the icy water. Juan, who was suffering from hypothermia and afraid the ice would break again under him, decided that the best way for him to help Anthony would be to run for help.
Juan called 911, and first responders from the New York Fire Department were racing to the scene within minutes. The firefighters arrived at Forest Park just four minutes after the initial 911 call came through and quickly assessed the situation. By that point, Anthony had been in the water for 30 minutes.
The odds may have been stacked against them, but the rescuers were determined to do everything they could to try and save the brave boy. While some waited on shore to perform CPR, several others ventured out onto the ice. It soon started to crack beneath them, sending them into the water as well.
"They were in about chest deep water wading through the water. At some point the ice did firm up," said FDNY Deputy Chief George Healy, "They had to physically, with their hands, break through the ice and chop the ice so they could get to the area they knew that the child would most likely be in, the opening in the ice."
When they reached Anthony, he was unresponsive and not breathing. They rushed him to dry land where paramedics performed CPR on him before rushing him to nearby Jamaica Hospital Medical Center. "l call him a hero. He’s a hero," said Carmen Rivera, 51, who lives downstairs from the Perez family.
Sadly, two hours after being rushed to the hospital, Anthony passed away.
The FDNY urged parents to warn their kids about the dangers of playing near frozen bodies of water in the winter.
"We implore you: Tell your children, the ice is not safe,” Healy said at a press conference. "It’s not going to support your weight. And there can be tragic consequences."