A newsmaker you should know: Sarver woman honored for saving driver from flood

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Christine Marty always downplays her actions that saved a woman's life.

"Anyone would have done it," she said.

Christine rescued Romy Connolly on Aug. 21, 2011, in the flash flood on Washington Boulevard where four people died. Without Christine's help, Mrs. Connolly could also have been a victim.

For her efforts, Ms. Marty recently was honored as a Good Samaritan Hero by the American Red Cross of Western Pennsylvania Region.

It was on the way home from a back-to-school shopping trip that Ms. Marty, then 21, and her mother, Marion, found themselves stuck in traffic on Washington Boulevard. Suddenly, the car was surrounded by water and soon was floating.

"I never truly registered the danger and severity of what was occurring," she said, "Looking back, I am embarrassed to admit I was laughing and taking pictures in disbelief as our car began to float."

But she also thinks that attitude may have helped in the grave situation.

"I believe this absence of thought or concern is what led me to act when needed," she said.

As the stormwaters rose around their car, Ms. Marty called her father who told her to call 911. The emergency operator then instructed Ms. Marty and her mother to open their sunroof and windows -- advice that may have saved their lives.

"When the water reached the window, I was still on the phone," Ms. Marty said. "Then I got disconnected from the operator, so I climbed out of the window, and our car sank like a brick." Marion climbed out of the sunroof.

Just as the car was sinking, Ms. Marty said she heard a cry for help. The swirling waters separated her from her mother so she swam toward the calls. The cries were from Mrs. Connolly, who was trapped in her sinking car.

"My mom was even cheering me on as I helped Romy. She was holding onto a nearby tree branch watching, unable to help because of the current," Ms. Marty said.

Mrs. Connolly was panicking, according to Ms. Marty, who managed to calm her and pull her from the window.

She then swam, pulling Mrs. Connolly to another car that was floating.

"I held onto Romy for dear life. We were swimming against the current," she said. As time passed, Mrs. Connolly, then 69, tired and said that she was going to let go.

"I held her tightly and we prayed and sang," Ms. Marty said.

Although Ms. Marty said she lost track of time, she estimates it was about 20 minutes or so when rescuers came in a canoe.

As word spread of Ms. Marty rescue, she was amazed by the attention.

"It was interesting receiving so much attention. The strangest thing is seeing my story told through the different mediums. Sometimes, it doesn't even feel like me."

When she watched the news the evening of the flood, the severity of the event finally hit.

"I am so thankful I was able to help and Romy is doing well. At the same time, it was a tragic day and it's difficult to receive recognition when you know families are in pain," she said.

And her opinion, Romy wasn't the only lucky one that day.

"I truly believe I was blessed to be able to help that day," she said, "Everything lined up just right -- I am athletic; Romy is a smaller woman and had the window open; it all worked out."

Even though Ms. Marty now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., to pursue her dream of a dancing career, she still keeps in touch with Mrs. Connolly.

"We speak every few months and were able to have dinner and ice cream with both of our families this past summer. She is such a beautiful and wonderful lady," Ms. Marty said.

neigh_north

Kathleen Ganster, freelance: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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