Justice Pate, a seventh-grader at the DeKalb School of the Arts, did not set out to be a hero. He was just trying to have fun.
The Pate family was in Bridgeton, Mo., on a family reunion in August. Justice was playing in an indoor pool at the Embassy Suites hotel where they were staying.
While swimming in the crowded pool, Justice’s foot kicked something at the bottom.
“I kind of kicked it to see if it was alive or it was just a kid playing around,” Justice said. “When it didn’t move, I came to the top of the pool and told my dad.”
His father, Garry Pate, looking into the cloudy, packed pool, did not think the object was a child.
“He said, ‘No, it’s just a painting on the bottom of the [pool],” Justice said. But the object was 7-year-old Desmond Aiken, unconscious at the bottom. Lucky for Desmond, Justice did not wait for the adults; he swam back to the bottom of the pool.
“So then I pulled him out and I pushed him over the water,” Justice said. “My dad grabbed him and pulled him out.”
Once the child was out of the pool, Garry Pate and the victim’s father administered CPR. Desmond made a full recovery.
For his heroic actions, the Bridgeton City Council and mayor sent a commendation, Bridgeton Police cap, patch and T-shirt. The items were presented to Justice on Oct. 25 by the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners. From DeKalb County, he received the first Citizens Lifesaving Award by the county’s fire rescue department.
“We’re fortunate to have this young man as part of our community,” said DeKalb Police Chief William O’Brien.
Justice’s mother Sherina Pate said her son is an avid swimmer.
“He loves the water,” Sherina Pate said. “He sometimes gets into trouble because he loves it so much and doesn’t want to get out of it.
“I know that God played an intense role in this because he is one of the best swimmers in the family,” his mother said. “He was in the right place at the right time and I’m so happy the little boy made a full recovery.”
Justice “acted with bravery,” said Garry Pate. “He didn’t have to do it. He chose to do it.”
Justice, who likes to draw and is a member of his school’s traveling acting troupe called Shows to Go, said it feels good being a hero “but you can’t take advantage of it.”
“Just because I’m a hero doesn’t mean you can do anything you want,” Justice said. “You still got to do all your schoolwork.”