A Texas teen is being recognized with a prestigious award for helping his family and neighbors to safety during Hurricane Harvey.
Using an air mattress, 13-year-old Virgil Smith managed to rescue 17 people who were trapped in their homes by the rising floodwaters, local station KTRK reported. Smith was one of five recipients chosen by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society to receive the “Young Hero Award” for his efforts during the devastating storm last year.
Smith and his mother took refuge in a stranger’s second-floor apartment after floodwaters came pouring into their unit. Not long after, the teen said he got a call from a friend asking for help because his family couldn’t swim. So, Smith jumped into action, swimming to his apartment to retrieve the mattress and swimming back to rescue his neighbors.
“I put him, his two sisters, there was one baby and his brother,” he told KTRK. “I had my other friend in my hand right here and I set his mom and stepdad on the air mattress.”
From there, Smith swam back across the floodwater with his friends to where his mom was waiting in the second-story apartment. The teen would go back to rescue several more of his neighbors, including a wheelchair-bound elderly woman.
“All I was thinking about was just I know he’s able to save lives,” Smith’s mother said. “He can rescue, he can swim. I just had faith in the Lord that everything was going to be alright.”