Saving a Life

Jonah Moore

For 17-year-old Jonah Moore of Edmond,
watching a man fall off a cliff and tumble from ledge to ledge meant leaping
into action and saving a life. Moore, a member of Boy Scout Troop 78, knew what
he had to do thanks to years of training through the Boy Scouts. His actions on
one fateful day changed the course of another man’s life forever. “Watching a
human being fall is strange,” Jonah said. “It’s like when the dummies fall in
the movies. After seeing him fall, I expected to find a corpse.”

Jonah Moore was 16 on the day
his troop took the annual climbing and camping trip to the Wichita Mountains in
Oklahoma. It was a day when a man fell nearly 40 feet down a cliff and the day
when Jonah implemented all the skills he learned in scouting to save a life.

Jonah MooreJonah was rappelling and camping
with both younger scouts and adults, and he was looking forward to watching his
own little brother try rappelling for the first time. Along for the journey was
Kendall Hill, an experienced adult chaperone, whose own son was also
rappelling. Jonah said that he had climbed down from the cliff to watch his
brother, recalling, “I saw Mr. Hill on the cliff. He was really close to the
edge. I remember saying to my friends, ‘If he takes one step, he’ll fall.’ Mr.
Hill was an experienced outdoorsman, but he was trying to take pictures of his

Sometimes even the most
experienced climber can forget to be aware of his surroundings. “I had gone out
because my son was rappelling for the first time, and I was trying to get a
picture of him,” said Hill. “I was standing on the rock cliff and I leaned out
to get the picture. I remember falling, but not a lot of detail.”

When Jonah looked back at Hill,
he saw him take that tragic step and topple over. “I looked back to watch, and
I heard a funny noise,” Jonah said. “He had taken a step and the rocks slid out
from under his feet. He fell, and he hit a stone ledge and slid off the cliff.
It was like watching a rag doll.”

Hill fell 10 more feet, hit
another ledge, and fell again. Overall, the man fell approximately 40 feet,
hitting stone and the jagged cliff all the way down. He finally stopped by a
stagnant pool of water at the base of the cliff.

“Oddly, my first thought was
that this was going to ruin the kids’ weekend,” Moore said. “But I started
running toward him.…When I got to him, he was trying to stand up.”

Jonah put a hand on the injured
man’s chest and urged him to lay still. Hill recalls, “I remember I tried to
stand a few times, but Jonah kept holding me down and telling me to stay
still.” Hill was in shock, and immediately, Jonah saw horrendous injuries. “I
saw bone sticking out of his leg and I thought his arms were broken. I looked
down at his leg and saw the water in the pond getting redder and redder.”

Jonah MooreJonah cut off the man’s pant
legs up to the knee, uncovering a shattered ankle and knee cap. “He’d
dislocated his ankle so bad that the foot was just dangling there, held on only
by the Achilles,” Jonah said. “Bone was sticking out.”

The young rescuer said he knew
he had to act fast, but the first-aid kit was still on top of the cliff. He
used his bandana to tie around the back of the ankle to help stop the bleeding
and tried to push the bone jutting out of Hill’s leg back into the body. “By
that time, another adult had come,” Jonah said.    

Together, the two worked to
secure Hill’s head and elevate his shattered leg. Jonah kept talking to Hill,
trying to determine if the man’s back was injured and to keep him from going
into shock. The other adults quickly herded the scouts back to the campground
and called for emergency aid, but the rescuers would have to hike stretchers
into the rough and primitive land.

 “I kept treating him for shock, but the worst
part was when I saw the pain register in his face,” said Jonah. “He said ‘Guys,
my leg hurts. The bone is sticking out, isn’t it?’ I just kept telling him he
was going to be fine.”

Thirty minutes passed before
paramedics were able to reach the group. Because of Jonah’s obvious take-charge
attitude, the paramedics began speaking to him as the leader of the group.
Using ropes and restraining baskets, the rescuers were able to haul the injured
Hill out of the canyon, up steep trails and through wilderness. Throughout the
ordeal, Jonah took the lead. “They told me I did a great job and that I
probably saved his leg,” he said. “I had taken the Boy Scouts of America
lifeguard training which includes basic triage. It all came back to me. As soon
as I knew he wasn’t as bad as I thought, I went into business mode.” In fact,
Jonah acted so mature and in charge that the paramedics mistook him for an
adult and invited him out for a beer later to honor his lifesaving ability.

Amazingly, Hill survived a
shattered leg, a few broken ribs, facial injuries, a mild concussion, a lost
tooth and a major gash on his lip from his fall. However, after surgery on his
leg, the flesh became gangrenous and the leg had to be amputated below the
knee. “I felt really bad about that,” Jonah said. “The paramedics said I helped
save his leg, but he lost it anyway. He was big into motorcycles, so that made
me feel really sad. He told me, though, that he would ride again.”

HillHill now wears a prosthetic leg,
and Jonah was hailed as a hero, a title that mystifies him. He was responding
as any Boy Scout would. For his actions that day, Jonah received the Boy Scouts
of America’s National Court of Honor Heroism Award in 2012 for saving a life
with minimum risk to self. He also received the 2012 Joe Chase Memorial Award
from Troop 78 for all-around service.

“The Boy Scouts and wrestling
have taught me the skills that saved his life,” Jonah said. “But the most
important thing I’ve learned is leadership experience, not just for myself, but
to teach others. A lot of the skills you learn are pointless unless you teach
them to someone else too.”

Editor’s note:

When Mr. Hill arrived for our photo shoot in May, he had fulfilled his
dream to ride again. He arrived on his motorcycle for the reunion.

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