On July 12, 2016, Kevin Suarez, a Montclair State student studying mathematics, was hard at work on the docks of the New York Harbor when he saw a tragedy occur—a small boat carrying six people capsized.
Suarez, who works for Statue Cruises, a boat line that takes people to and from Ellis Island, drove into action when he saw the scene unfolding before his eyes. Quickly, he jumped into the water—a 15 feet drop from the seawall—and swam approximately 70 feet to the boat that was submerging into the water.
“I was running on fear and adrenaline as I swam against the brutal currents. My goal was roughly 75 feet away, a family trying their hardest to say afloat. Once I managed to get near them a man started crying out, ‘save her, please save her’,” Suarez said to the Red Hawks of Montclair State Instagram.
The boat that had been carrying a family of six (two men and four children from ages 5 to 11) were faced with the horror of the youngest child being trapped under water with the boat.
Upon arriving at the scene, Suarez wasted no time rescuing the child, whose lifejacket strings were caught on a part of the boat, keeping her restrained underwater. Suarez used all of his force to pull the girl free from underneath the boat, until succeeding and obtaining the frightened child. After rescuing the young girl, Suarez helped swim her and another young child back to the shores of Ellis Island.
Suarez’s heroic actions on the harbor on that fateful day have been recognized as remarkable by many individuals.
On July 21, 2016, he was honored by the City Council of New York, only eight days after helping the family on that tragic day. The award was presented to him by Councilman-at-large Daniel Rivera at City Hall with all of his family and friends in attendance.
On October 7, 2016, Suarez was honored with an award for his bravery in Washington D.C by the Chief of the U.S. Park Police. Present for this ceremony was his mother and two older brothers who had taken the long journey with him to witness this monumental event.
At the award ceremony, the individuals that Suarez saved were all present, including the two young girls that he helped to swim to shore. They expressed their appreciation to him upon seeing him again.
Upon receiving the award, Suarez said to NJ.com reporter, Corey McDonald, “It’s a really great honor. It’s something I didn’t expect at all and I’m overwhelmingly happy that I was able to receive it.”