This article originally appeared in The Inquirer on Oct. 16, 1997.
By David E. Wilson, INQUIRER CORRESPONDENT
The dignitaries were all lined up, awards in hand and speeches ready to go.
The postal workers had set aside their work for a moment and gathered in the front room of the post office on High Street.
The Anderson family — Thomasa and Dwight and their children, 15-month-old Aleah, Jeremiah, 2, and 4 1/2-year-old Isaiah — posed for the television cameras.
Just one man was missing from the group yesterday morning.
Barry Petty — the postal carrier who saved the life of Isaiah Anderson last month by scooping his still body from the deep end of a swimming pool and breathing into his mouth — stood in the back of the room, rocking on his feet.
“Barry!” yelled a colleague.
“Get up there!” yelled another.
Petty relented, and the stream of laurels poured forth.
“There probably isn’t anything more important in the entire world than what you did," said Diane Allen, an Assembly member from the Seventh District.
“It was not your regular tour, and you were an hour late,” said Mayor Herman Costello. "There was a reason for it.
“If you didn’t believe [in a higher power], you must believe now,” he said.
Most appreciative, of course, was Thomasa Anderson.
“I just prayed to God, and thank him that he sent this person to rush into that pool and get my son out,” Anderson said, her eyes welling with tears. She embraced Petty.
Petty, in standard hero fashion, couldn’t bring himself to take full credit. But he allowed himself, if only briefly, to bask in the glow.
“It feels really good,” said Petty, 40, who has been a postal carrier for 12 years. “I never expected all this. The greatest thing is to see him out of the hospital … To see something like this is a miracle.”
Fellow postal workers broke into a chant: “Barry! Barry! Barry!”
Police and emergency workers agree that if Petty hadn’t been delivering mail at that hour on Lancaster Avenue in Burlington Township, a section served by the Burlington City post office, Isaiah Anderson most likely would not be alive today.
About 3 p.m. on Sept. 25, Anderson’s babysitter, a woman in her 60s, came running to the door as Petty walked by, screaming for help. Petty burst into the house, ran out the back door and saw Isaiah lying motionless under about 8 feet of water. Isaiah’s brother, Jeremiah, was walking around the perimeter of the pool.
Petty, a CPR instructor, dived in and pulled Isaiah to the surface. He did not feel a pulse and immediately began trying to resuscitate the boy. Isaiah was taken by helicopter to Cooper Hospital-University Medical Center, where he spent the next two weeks recovering.
Thomasa Anderson, who was at work at the time, rushed over to the house and then on to the hospital.
At the ceremony yesterday, Anderson said that her two sons must have squeezed under the fence or through the gate of the pool, which was fenced off but uncovered.