Scouts learn first-aid skills in Scouting without ever knowing when they’ll need to use them. Or on whom.
Last month a group of New Jersey Boy Scouts helped rescue the NBC journalist Ann Curry after she had broken her ankle while hiking.
On April 5, 2014, Scouts from Troop and Crew 368 out of Berkeley Heights, N.J., were on a Philmont training hike through Harriman State Park in New York.
That’s when, as Scouter Rick Jurgens told me this morning, they came across Curry. Only they didn’t know it was the Emmy-winning journalist right away.
“We were hiking along, and we came to a trail intersection,” Jurgens said, “and a lady was sitting on the ground with her one leg out. We didn’t think anything of it, but one of the guys asked if everything is OK. She said, ‘No, not really. I think I broke my ankle.’ She told us to keep going, but the guys refused.”
With no prompting from Jurgens, the Scouts sprang into action. This is what they had trained for.
“They splinted it up perfectly,” Jurgens said. “Just like in the pictures.”
Jurgens, a professional firefighter and EMT, double-checked their work and found they had made a textbook splint.
“We work on these requirements, and here’s an opportunity where it was a true test of all those First Class, Second Class first-aid requirements,” he said. “They got to use it and use it for real. And they did an outstanding job.”
Curry, in a letter she later sent to the Scouts, praised their emergency readiness, saying they went “above the call of duty.”
“Discovering I was unable to walk, and needed to get down the mountain for medical care, you immediately set about to help,” she wrote.
Not out of the woods yet
They splinted Curry’s leg, but she still needed to get down the mountain and couldn’t walk or be safely carried down the steep terrain. The Scouts again knew what to do.
“The guys on their own, with no direction from me, start running into the woods,” Jurgens said. “And she didn’t know what was going on, and I didn’t know what was going on either.”
Turns out they were finding pieces of wood for a makeshift stretcher — the same kind they teach you to make in first-aid classes. They found two strong sticks and tied on a tarp. One of the Scouts, Andrew Stecher, got on the stretcher to test its load-bearing ability. It worked.
They set the stretcher next to Curry, her ankle really swelling up now. She slid onto it, and the Scouts picked her up. Jurgens and another adult helped guide the Scouts and point out rocks along their path.
In good spirits throughout
Curry’s skillful reporting has taken her to Iraq, Congo, Iran, Sudan and other areas of international crisis. So, Jurgens said, it’s no surprise this situation didn’t seem to raise Curry’s blood pressure too much.
“She was in a good mood, asking us about our Philmont trip,” Jurgens said. “She wanted to hear what brought us to Harriman State Park.”
Curry’s husband and son went ahead to get their SUV and drive it to the trailhead. The Scouts helped Curry into the front seat of the car, and before they left, Curry’s husband thanked the Scouts.
“He told us, ‘You guys are the best,'” Jurgens said. “‘I don’t know what I would do without you guys.'”
Curry’s husband wrote down Jurgens’ contact info and left for the hospital.
What happened next
Once Curry and her family had driven away, the forest rangers arrived.
“They asked, ‘Is there somebody up there who needs rescuing?’ And we said, ‘It’s taken care of,'” Jurgens said.
Jurgens praised the Scouts for a fantastic job. Then he broke some news to them.
“I said, ‘Do you know who that woman was? That was Ann Curry.'”
Jurgens had recognized Curry, and her iconic voice, right away. But not all the Scouts in his troop and crew are avid news-watchers. So Chris Tribuna, acting crew leader, took out his phone and showed them Curry is a national news anchor who has interviewed pretty much everyone.
The Scouts were floored by all the famous people she had interviewed, exotic assignments she had covered and adventures she had been on.
Even after that, one Scout in the group didn’t believe it was Ann Curry. That is, until a few weeks later when he got a letter.
A call, and a letter, from Curry
Last week, Jurgens got a phone call from a number he didn’t recognize.
“She said, ‘Hi, is this Rick? This is Ann Curry, the lady you rescued on Bear Mountain.’ She was really great and really appreciative. She said she underestimated the Boy Scouts of America. She was just mesmerized that a bunch of 14-, 15- and 16-year-olds came together and got her down the mountain,” Jurgens said.
Curry got the addresses of everyone who was there that day and sent each a hand-signed letter thanking them for their “skill and professionalism.” See the letter below.
“I feel enormously lucky you came along at just the right moment, and were so willing to help a stranger in need,” she wrote. “You are a credit to the Boy Scouts and to your families, and I want you to know I am deeply grateful for your kindness and skill.”
Update, May 9: Curry Tweeted (to her 1.4 million followers) her thanks to the Scouts of Troop 368:
If you break a leg on on a mountain, I hope Boy Scout Troop 368 finds you. Boy am I glad they found me.http://t.co/AzTWlFzNcz
— Ann Curry (@AnnCurry) May 9, 2014
What I love about this story is that while this one has a famous name associated with it, these types of stories happen all the time in Scouting. It’s what Scouts train for.
“No matter who that was, we would’ve done the same exact thing,” Jurgens said. “The guys didn’t know this was a special person at first and treated her with the most dignified respect. It was all on the guys.”
Speaking of, I was moved by how little credit Jurgens was willing to take for his role.
“I wish I could say, I told them to do this and that,” Jurgens said, “but they did it all on their own.”
From left: Devon McLean, Michael Middlebrook, Joe McLaughlin, Christopher Friedlander, Chris Pirone, Mark Trella, Andrew Stecher and Chris Tribuna.
Not pictured: Peter Krasny
Click to enlarge