It was April 8, 2012, Easter Sunday, on Honeymoon Island. Three children playing in the water suddenly went under. Their mother and father jumped in, grabbing two of their kids, which left 6-year-old Ruby stranded and all alone.
"It was very traumatic," explained Nichole Monahan, Ruby's mother, "I thought she was dead and I was so scared."
Nearby, Eileen Hall and her husband Alan were collecting seashells along the shore.
"He took off. There was no hesitation," Eileen said.
Alan grabbed a hold of Ruby and began nudging her back to land.
"The gift that he gave was so heroic and selfless and unexplainable. I am blessed and grateful that he entered my life that day," Nichole said.
A year later, Ruby celebrated her seventh birthday with an ironic twist: swimming in Alan and Eileen's pool.
"Is Alan watching you from heaven, right?" asked her mother. Ruby nodded.
While Ruby made it out that April Sunday, Alan did not.
"My husband loved children and I know he's looking down at Ruby on her birthday today, thanking God that she is here," Eileen explained.
Alan sacrificed his life to save a stranger.
"I'm so lucky for her to have forgiven me for Alan leaving her," cried Nichole.
From a heartbreaking instant of triumph and tragedy, the two families now share a special bond.
"We connected right away," Eileen added, "There's a connection between my husband and Ruby and will be forever. We've grown very, very close."
Eileen said Alan epitomizes what it means to be a hero.
"So, I'm very proud of him, I'm very, very proud. I'm not bitter, I'm not angry, nobody did anything wrong, it was just meant to be," she said.
Now, a bench marks his bravery, it reads "In memory of Alan B. Hall, a real life hero."
While many heroes say they just did what anybody would have done in their shoes, experts say that's really not the case.
"It might be worrying that you might not be able to perform the act," said Matt Langdon.
Langdon is literally writing The Hero Handbook. He pointed to something called the "Bystander effect."
"If no one else is jumping in, why should I?" is how he describes it.
But he says anyone can train themselves to be a hero.
"If you imagine yourself in these situations and what you would do, it prepares you, and I think it prepares you, and that came to play with Mr. Hall -- is that he saw the problem and probably imagined, okay, if something happens, I'm going to have to jump in. And then something did happen and he jumped in," Langdon said.
Eileen agreed. She said Alan always helped others and had every characteristic of being a hero.
"Either you hesitate because you're frightened or you don't think and you go," she said
It was a life-saving decision made in a flash.
"It would have been devastating to lose my children," Nichole said, as she wiped away tears.
It was also a decision that granted Alan the prestigious Carnegie Hero Award. But for Eileen, the real gift of his heroism is right beside her.
"I'm sure he's very grateful that he died in a way that he could save someone, especially a little girl like Ruby," Eileen said.
So would you be a hero or a bystander? As yourself these questions:
1) Do you avoid stereotypes and speak up when you hear people using them?
2) Are you willing to be the first to act in an emergency when others are inactive?
3) Do you help those in need or those less fortunate?
4) Do you speak out if you see someone cheating, lying or bullying?
5) Do you go out of your way to make other people feel good or special?
6) Can you imagine being a hero if the opportunity arose to act on behalf of others in need, aware of possible risks and costs?
If you answered "Yes" to all of these, then you have the traits to be a hero. If you think you would be scared to act, here are some ways to prevent the Bystander Effect:
1) Imagine yourself in a situation of crisis and how you would react. Train your brain to jump in and help.
2) Be comfortable with not conforming to crowds. This is something you can practice in everyday life. Stand-up and speak out. Don't wait for someone else to take initiative.
3) Do things that would make you feel well prepared in an emergency. For example, learn CPR and make sure you stay certified.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
Didn't find what you were looking for?