(Editor’s Note: The following is a series on the men and women who have spent their summers protecting all those who came to Ocean City for fun and safe vacation.)
OCEAN CITY – It’s often said that every day on the OCBP is an adventure, some a bit more than others. Mike Gillespie might not have been aware of this when he passed his test in 58-degree water.
It was 1977 and the Memorial Day weekend was starting off rather cool. He started the first week of June on 94th Street and was determined to be early. On his second day, he was up and scanning the water before anyone else was around when he heard screaming and saw someone in distress, waving their hands and getting pummeled by the surf.
Gillespie swam out to the man, but quickly realized he wasn’t the one in trouble. It was his “buddy” who had disappeared in the surf. “I got a general direction of where he was last seen and began duck diving in the rough surf as waves were breaking where we were trying to stand,” he recalled.
Gillespie felt around for what felt like 10 minutes, but was probably more like two, when he “felt a big lifeless body floating a couple of feet beneath the surface.” He brought the man up and “got his head onto the buoy and gave him a couple of breaths to no avail.” Gillespie got the man through the breakers and into waist deep water when another guard showed up to help.
“By now a crowd of 50 or so onlookers circled around us as we pulled him onto the soft sand,” Gillespie said. The man was put down with, “a loud thud and the crowd gasped as he started breathing again,” according to Gillespie.
Gillespie learned on that second day that “these physical and mental challenges helped prepare me for the real world.” In 1982, when he left the beach for the world of finance, he was ready.