A Little Queens Hero Dies Saving His Friend

A Personal Perspective

A heartbreaking story unfolded in our borough earlier this week when an 11-year-old boy fell through the ice in a park pond.

Anthony Perez and a friend were in Forest Park on Tuesday afternoon when tragedy struck. Apparently, Anthony’s friend ran into difficulties while navigating his way across the icy surface of Strack Pond.

The ice had thinned out from the warmer temperatures New York was experiencing, so Perez went to help him. That boy managed to get out, but Anthony Perez became submerged and the other boy ran for help.

According to reports, by the time emergency rescuers arrived and were able to break through the ice and pull the child out, he had already been submerged for more than 30 minutes. Thirty minutes might as well be three hours when you are helpless in icy water.

The emergency responders did their best to save him, but he was pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital. The sorrow of that accident is overwhelming.

Almost 17 years to the day—Jan. 30, 2001—the same kind of tragedy almost happened in Baisley Pond Park. A group of five youngsters went for a similar adventure on an icy pond. Fortunately, they were not off the beaten path the way Strack Pond in Forest Park appears to be.

The Baisley Pond kids were able to get the attention of residents in nearby homes and emergency personnel got to them quickly enough to save all. In that long-ago story, representatives from the Parks Department also rushed over and were relieved at the outcome.

Kids are always looking for adventure. Sometimes, they find it in the wrong places. That half frozen pond was one such place. Parents cannot be everywhere—so, many times kids are left unsupervised. If there is anything the municipality can do to protect them from themselves, we should.

After the near tragedy in Southeast Queens nearly two decades ago, you would think that the city would have clear warning signs posted in every park that features a pond, telling would-be adventurers that walking on a frozen pond is a dangerous act.

Kids may still defy the clearest of warning signs—but if it saves one life, it is worth the effort of posting it there. The saying “youth is wasted on the young” may sound trite, but there’s truth there. We come into this world knowing nothing and we learn not just from the teaching we get, but also from the trial and error method we embark upon from the moment we are born.

There is probably no healthy child who has never engaged in some sort of dangerous stunt in their life.

We now shudder at the recollection of some of our own childhood follies as we followed older siblings and cousins.

Hearts are breaking for both children in the Forest Park tragedy. One died saving the other and the surviving one might live with survivor’s guilt forever. As for Anthony Perez’s family, they will never be the same.

To lose a child who made a miscalculation in trying to save a friend—who, in turn, made a miscalculation—is a complicated grief. One family lost a child, while the other family has its child as a result of the heroic act of the one who perished.

Anthony Perez was a hero who gave his life for his friend. It shouldn’t have happened that way.

However, it did. May this kind little boy rest in peace, and may his family find comfort in the fact that he did not hesitate to help a friend in need.

Anthony’s sacrifice reminds one of a biblical verse, “Greater love has no one than to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). This little guy did just that. What an angelic act!

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