June 24, 2020, began as an ordinary day for Saint Ignatius junior Shane Morrison. The Concord Township resident headed to Mentor Headlands Beach with several friends for a day of summertime fun.
The group saw a boy out in the water who appeared to be struggling to swim; they called out to him but got no response. In that moment, Shane decided to act. He instructed his friends to call the Coast Guard and jumped into Lake Erie. Braving 6-foot swells, he swam approximately 50 yards to the boy, whom he did not know. For several minutes, he kept the stranger afloat until the Coast Guard arrived and pulled both boys aboard.
The Coast Guard Supervisor who was on duty that day said, “I have never seen an act of heroism from a person as young as Shane in waters as treacherous as it was today.”
Now, two boys are no longer strangers, as Shane successfully saved the life of Donovan Conwell, then a 14-year-old boy from Painesville Township. They were together with family and friends on Tuesday, August 31, as Shane was given one of the rarest honors awarded by the Coast Guard: the Silver Lifesaving Medal.
“Leaders are people of character with a bias toward action,” said Rear Admiral Michael J. Johnston, Ninth District Commander for the U.S. Coast Guard. “Shane Morrison has that something special.”
Johnston mentioned that 87 people died on the Great Lakes in 2020, and Shane’s heroism prevented that number from being one digit—one precious life—higher.
U.S. Representative Dave Joyce (OH-14) presented Shane with the medal, which is made of precious metals and one of few awards that a branch of the armed services gives to civilians.
“Shane’s story is an uplifting one that restores our faith in humanity,” Joyce said.
Following the presentation of the award, Shane offered his own humble remarks, thanking his family, friends, Saint Ignatius High School, and especially his mom, Erin, for all their support and formation into who is today. Having lost his father unexpectedly nine years ago, Shane knew the deep and lasting impact of losing a family member. So it was through instinct, perhaps, that he decided to act.
“That day, Donovan Conwell and his family have taught me that one moment, one instance, one chance, one hesitation in life…it can mean the difference between a life filled with memories or a person that means the world to you, or an unfulfilled life that had all the potential of doing great things and making beautiful memories that slipped away because no one looked twice,” he said.
“The Conwell family and mine will forever be cemented together,” Shane added. “We both took the time to see each other, appreciate each other, and cherish life…”
Indeed, Shane’s heroic actions made a difference in not just Donovan’s life, but in so many others. His bravery and fortitude that day have made all the difference. Thank you, Shane, for your incredible selflessness and care for a fellow human being. Your actions are the embodiment of what it means to be a Good Samaritan.
Related Media Coverage:
The News Herald
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FOX 8 Cleveland