Man reunites with good Samaritan who saved his life 35 years after near drowning

Man reunites with good Samaritan who saved his life 35 years after near drowning

LAKE NORMAN — Whether you believe in miracles or not, Jimmy Brewer’s story will make your jaw drop.

“It never leaves your mind,” Brewer told Channel 9 anchor Susanna Black. “Something like that never leaves your mind.”

In 1985, Brewer lived on a small cove in Lake Norman with his wife, Brenda, and his two daughters. Brewer told Channel 9 he can still remember the sounds of kids playing in the water as he got ready for work. It was a Monday.

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“I always went in first thing Monday morning to catch up on paperwork and those things, but instead of going in first thing, I decided to go in at lunchtime,” Brewer recalled. “I don’t never do that, but this day, I went in at lunchtime.”

At the time, Brewer didn’t think much about it. Now, he believes it was the first piece of an intricate puzzle, designed by the divine. He said it all happened just after lunch, as he told his wife goodbye.

“As soon as I kissed her on the cheek, I heard an alarming scream,” Brewer said. "It was different. I walked out the door and it was a woman screaming, ‘Get your head up! Get your head up!’ Then I got down closer and I could see little hands sticking out of the water. You could barely see her fingers and her hair was floating up.”

Brewer said before he could think, he was running into the water. As a teenager, he’d had lifeguard training, but this was the first time he’d ever used it.

“I grabbed her little hands, pulled her up and got her on the bank and there was a sweet little girl,” Brewer remembered. “She was coughing real bad. She still had breath in her, but she was coughing real bad. I got her simmered down, but she was scared to death.”

He would soon learn her name was Dena, and she was six years old. The woman across the cove was Dena’s mother, and Brewer said she kept screaming, even after Dena was safe.

“I couldn’t understand her and I looked down, holding this sweet little girl, at my pants and muddy shoes, and I got a little aggravated,” Brewer said. “I screamed across the cove and slapped my hands together ‘shut up!’ because I was aggravated. She got real quiet -- the mama -- she got real quiet and she says, ‘Where is her little brother?’"

"It was like someone took their fist and hit me in the stomach,” Brewer said through tears. “Because all this time, the clock’s ticking.”

He said he immediately dove in and searched the murky cove. With no luck, he organized his family and neighbors into a human chain, and they waded through the water for several minutes, still with no sign of anyone. Finally, he turned to Dena.

“I said, ‘Sweetie, show me where you saw your brother last,’ and she pointed that little finger to the right just as straight as she could point it,” Brewer said.

The human chain turned in that direction and began walking. Within three or four steps, Brewer said a woman screamed.

“I reached down and grabbed him by the wrist and pulled that little guy out of the water -- and it was the most awful thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” Brewer said.

Though he feared the worst, Brewer said he knew he still had to try and save Dena’s little brother. With his wife by his side, he put those lifeguard skills to use again.

“Right before I blew that first air, I said ‘Pray, Brenda!’ She dropped down on her knees in the mud at that bank and I probably did that for a minute, maybe two, and then all of a sudden he started spewing out water, and then he started coughing," Brewer recalled. "You don’t cough unless you’re alive.”

Although the little boy was unconscious, he was alive, and was rushed to the hospital.

Brewer met the family there and heard the doctors bleak prognosis, which included the words “brain damage” and “brain dead.” Brewer said the doctors estimated the boy had been underwater for around 20 minutes.

But three days later, after spending all of that time at the bottom of Lake Norman, and against all odds, the boy woke up.

“He just opened his eyes like he’d been asleep and woken up,” Brewer recalled. “There wasn’t a thing wrong with him.”

His name was Jeremy, and he was just five years old. During his hospital stay, he and Brewer became fast friends -- sharing milkshakes and getting to know each other.

There’s one moment in particular about that time that still sticks with Brewer.

"I walked in one day and his mama stopped me and said, 'It’s Jeremy. He just tried to climb out of the window because he said he saw an angel.”

When Brewer tells this part of the story, he smiles from ear to ear. For him, it was another sign that the chain of events he was experiencing, was no coincidence.

Eventually, Jeremy recovered and the two parted ways. Life went on, as it does, but Brewer never forgot the little boy who’d touched his life in such a profound way. Through the years, he lost the child’s name and thought that meant finding Jeremy would be impossible.

But it turns out, Jeremy was closer than Brewer could have ever imagined.

In August, at the funeral for the man who taught him how to be a lifeguard all those years ago, Brewer began to tell the story about how, without those skills, he never would have been able to save the lives of a little girl named Dena, and a little boy whose name had slipped his mind.

“My nephew, Scotty, looked up at me and said, ‘Uncle Jimmy! Uncle Jimmy!’ And I said, ‘What, Scotty?’ He said, 'That’s Jeremy!” Brewer said.

It turns out, Scotty met Jeremy in HVAC school more than 10 years ago. Scotty decided to open his own company and hired Jeremy as part of his team. The two have been best friends ever since.

“He comes over to my house every day and comes to family functions with us,” Scotty explained. “After all these years, bam! There’s Jeremy and my Uncle Jimmy. Without him, Jeremy would have been gone.”

Channel 9 was there as Jeremy and Brewer went back to the cove together, for the first time since that near-drowning. Jeremy said he has no memory of it.

“It’s just gone,” Jeremy explained. “[My family] didn’t talk about it much. Just, ‘You drowned. Lake Norman. End of story.’"

For the most part, he said he was able to live with that. After all, he said he’s lived a great life, with his wife and two kids. But he said a part of him has always wondered. Especially because of the one thing he’s always thought he remembered, that Brewer can now confirm.

“I saw an angel outside my hospital window,” Jeremy explained. “I can remember him looking in at me and I was just ready to go. I thought it was my time. I tried to go out the window after him and my family stopped me. My Aunt Sue had to tell the angel to leave, that I was not going, not yet.”

Perspective, gratefulness, friendship and faith are just a few of the things Jeremy and Jimmy hope you take away from their story. As for what -- or who -- was behind the unbelievable rescue and reunion, they said they know who to thank.

“Reading the story from the paper -- my life is better than I thought it was, if you want to know the truth,” Jeremy said. “I got an extra 35 years so far, of something I wouldn’t see or do. Then, I was working with his family and we didn’t even know. So, it doesn’t matter how long it takes, God got his ways to finally put it together and now we’re here. Now, Jimmy and me are going to be stuck together until one of us go.”

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