In celebration of Heroes Month (September) Silver Dollar City invited Wentzville Fire Protection District Captain Tommy Shine to share his story with park guests on Sept. 7, of how a 2015 water rescue forever changed his life and his faith.
On Jan. 14, 2015, Shine and his fire crews were called to Lake Sainte Louise on report of three boys who had fallen through the ice on what he describes as an unseasonably warm day. While two of the boys had escaped the icy waters with assistance from officers with the Lake St. Louis Police Department, John Smith, 14, was still unaccounted for.
Shine said when he arrived, Smith had been under the water 8-10 minutes. Shine got into the water in a mustang suit (a survival flotation suit), with a 12-foot pipe pole, to begin the search for Smith.
“So for a while I started poking and prodding and I noticed something with my pipe pole,” said Shine.
“At that point I just stopped, heard something, figured out if that was my mind playing tricks on me or what’s going on. Why was I basically stopping in this area?
“I’m like, ‘Here goes nothing.’ I started pulling. There was a little less resistance, little less resistance and John began to submerge and I saw his shirt.”
Smith was then pulled to shore. Resuscitation efforts by the St. Charles County Ambulance were unsuccessful, and Smith was transported to St. Joseph West.
“The doctor that was there was a drowning specialist, so he stayed to work with John. They worked on John for nearly 45 minutes,” Shine said. “They worked him that long because obviously he is a kid and no one wants to give up on a child. His mom Joyce shows up. Dr. (Jeremy) Garrett goes in and says ‘I’m just basically telling you we’ve done everything we could.’ At that point Joy begins to pray and pray and pray and just belts out in a huge prayer ‘Lord don’t take my son.’ The entire ER heard it. Within a second to five seconds later they had a pulse.”
With the odds stacked against him, Shine said an entire community began praying for Smith. After 14 days in the hospital, Smith walked out unscathed and healthy.
“His story is a miracle, 100 percent miracle,” said Shine. “I alway’s like to refer to it as a miracle on ice, because if I’m not a part of it, I would never believe it. Doctor’s don’t believe it. Nobody can explain it.”
If Shine’s story sounds familiar, that’s because it was the basis for the book “The Impossible,” which was written by Smith’s mother Joyce and the inspiration behind the recently released film “Breakthrough” staring Chrissy Metz, Josh Lucas, Topher Grace and Mike Colter.
“I’ve said it every time I’ve talked, if you’re not a believer in the Lord, after you watch the movie and/or read the book you will 100 percent reevaluate your belief system on whether or not God exists,” said Shine. “Again God can’t save everybody, but it renewed faith in the world, because the movie was released worldwide and it’s done unbelievable things.”
While searching for Smith in the icy waters, Shine said he can’t explain it, but he believe’s somebody put him right where he needed to be in order to find Smith.
“Obviously it was very chaotic and I thought I blocked everything out, but apparently something got in there to tell me, ‘Stay here and pull,’” Shine said. “Obviously at this point, if you take God out of it, it just doesn’t happen.”
Shine added that he believes God has plans for both himself and Smith and that the whole experience definitely renewed his faith.
“There was doubt in my faith, because things in my life had happened and then I get to be a part of this and I’m like ‘Why’d he save John? Why couldn’t he save things in my life or let this happen?’ Those questions weren’t answered for me, but it makes you a believer again,” said Shine. “It’s not going to fix everything, but you can turn it over. He’ll have an answer for you one way or another and he’ll guide you. So that’s how it renewed my faith.”
When the film was announced, Shine said he hoped they would get someone like Dwayne Johnson or Vin Diesel to play him, but said it was an unbelievable feeling when he found out that Luke Cage star Mike Colter would be playing him.
“I got to meet him and he’s the most humblest person and is happy as the day is long,” said Shine. “He was just very blessed and thanked me for allowing him to represent me. I’m like, ‘You told the story like you could, and I wouldn’t have expected anything else.’”
Shine also thanks Silver Dollar City for giving him the opportunity to come to this part of the state to share his story.
“It’s a blessing to be able to tell the story to all the people, especially all the brothers and sisters in the first responder world. Because if they don’t know the story, or if they’ve heard it just to hear it again and understand that it really happened and that this is truly a miracle, 100 percent miracle,” Shine said. “If you have doubt in your faith, read the book, watch the movie and just get the message that it truly is a miracle all else aside the power of prayer is priceless.”
For the entire month of September, SDC is honoring all the brave men and women who sacrifice so much to keep our families and nation safe. All active and retired law enforcement officers, active and retired firefighters, active and retired military personnel, military veterans, EMTs and 911 dispatchers will receive a free one day admission into the park with a valid photo and department/military ID.
Visit silverdollarcity.com for additional details.