WHEN Gregg Alejandro Mannette saved a doctor from drowning in waters off No Man’s Land, Tobago, just five months ago, little did he know that his selfless act would catch the attention of the highest office in the land.
Gregg, 15, was awarded the Hummingbird bronze medal for gallantry on Saturday night at the National Awards ceremony at the National Academy for the Performing Arts, Port of Spain.
He was one four people who received the Hummingbird bronze medal.
President Paula-Mae Weekes chatted warmly with Gregg as she pinned his medal. He then got tight hug and handshake from the Prime Minister, standing as tall as Dr Rowley.
The St Mary’s College student, who plays water polo, said he is extremely honoured to receive such a prestigious award.
“It is a pleasure to be a young person in Trinidad, as a citizen, to receive this award. I have a whole set of feelings I cannot even describe,” he told Sunday Newsday before the ceremony.
Gregg said as word spread that he was to receive a national award, he received numerous congratulatory messages from people.
“I haven’t really been telling people but it has been heartwarming to see how many people were still messaging and sending me congratulations. It was really nice to see the community aspect of it.”
On April 7, Gregg was with his parents, Narisha and Gregg Snr, an uncle Ricardo Laban, two aunts and a family friend. They were among a group of about 11 people who simply wanted to enjoy a relaxing, stress-free day at the beach.
At the beach, two party boats anchored near the shore and its exuberant passengers, eager to soak up the ambience, got off.
Laban was in the water on a paddle board when he observed a man bathing between the two boats. The man, he realised, was struggling to stay above water.
As it turned out, the man’s wife was calling for people to assist her husband but no one responded.
But Gregg heard her and leapt into action. As he swam toward the man, Gregg realised there were people about six feet from him looking on helplessly.
His parents weren’t even aware of what was happening until they saw Gregg assisting the man to the shore. (Read article here)
The man, who was shaken and exhausted from the ordeal, lay on the shore as his concerned family members surrounded him.
They later learnt that the man was a doctor. He thanked Gregg profusely for saving his life.
Since the incident, Gregg was hailed as a hero among the students and teachers at school and in his community.
And while the praise has never stopped pouring in, the modest, unassuming teenager insists he is no hero.
“I am not necessarily a hero. The textbook definition may say so but as a person I feel the same way I was before (the incident).”
But he did admit that the recognition he has received was life-changing.
“But I would not put myself out there as a hero, I don’t see it like that.”
He said he often reflects on the incident.
“So many things could have gone wrong but the thing aligned perfectly where everything was good. There were just so many variables where things weren’t supposed to happen but did happen. Since those things happened, everything fell into place like dominoes.”
The Form Five student said he has kept in touch with the doctor.
“We have gotten very close.”
Narisha said she is extremely proud of her son.
“It is amazing. We feel so proud of him,” she said, adding the award was unexpected.
"He took full control and initiative and as parents we are immensely proud of him to know that he had contributed to society and to helping the life of another person. There are no words for that.”
She said they are thankful the President has seen it fit to acknowledge his deed with a national medal for bravery. Narisha is hoping it will inspire other young people to greatness.
His father said, “Beyond anything else, I think he acted instinctively when he saw the doctor in distress. And at the end of it to be recognised is not just a win for him but for other young people who would do positive things but may not be identified.
“And to be that type of role model for his generation, you know positive news sometimes doesn’t go as far as negative news.”
Gregg Snr said for a student to be recognised nationally is really hope for younger ones to know that they have a part to play in the society.
“They must know that they don’t have to be a particular age to get a national award.”