By Beacon Staff
They were already heroes — always ready to save a life if the situation arises.
Now they have been officially recognized as heroes by the city of West Burlington.
West Burlington Swimming Pool general manager Bethany Nannen and her staff were honored by the West Burlington City Council during the Sept. 7 council meeting.
They were honored not only with a proclamation but with certificates of their heroism, which they could hold in their hands.
“We admire these local heroes,” said West Burlington City Councilwoman Therese Lees.
A lot of those heroes are ages 19 and under — local kids just trying to make a living as a lifeguard. Most people don’t see the effort they put into keeping the pool safe and saving those who get in over their heads.
“My staff has been amazing. They’re still amazing,” Nannen said.
“It (the proclamation) meant a lot to me, and it meant a lot to the kids. If you’re 16 years old, you don’t usually get recognized for jumping in the pool and saving someone’s life.”
It was a rough summer for the pool staff — the roughest in the history of the swimming pool. While the proclamation honored all of the staff’s work through the summer, it was their heroic response to a shooting in the pool parking lot in June that captured public attention.
“When we had the debrief, I told the kids (lifeguards), ‘This is something you should never have to witness. I am sorry that you have to go through this. This is not normal, and this is not something that will ever be normal,” Nannen said of the June 14 shooting incident.
Nannen jumped into action with her first-aid kit the day of the shooting, giving aid to a man who had been shot in the neck/jaw area. Meanwhile, the pool staff calmly got everyone out in an orderly evacuation.
At first, Nannen feared a child had been shot.
“At the time, we didn’t know what was happening. We didn’t know if it was another mass shooting. We didn’t know,” she said.
Nannen, a Burlington Community School District teacher, fell back on 30 years of emergency training.
A person on the scene was applying pressure to the victim’s gunshot wound with a towel, doing their best to keep him alive. But the pressure was applied to the man’s jaw rather than his neck, and Nannen quickly moved the towel to the gunshot wound.
Nannen commended her staff, 15 of which were working that day. She directed some of them to break up the crowd gathering outside the pool.
“I cannot tell you enough good things about my staff. And these are all really young kids. The oldest one I have on staff is 19, and she just turned 19,” Nannen said.
As part of the proclamation by the city council, the youths were also recognized by the city as a special category of first responders. They received a standing ovation from everyone at the meeting.
“I want to thank all of you for what you did at the pool,” Lees said. “We have faith in the ability of today’s youth.”
Since the incident, Nannen and her staff have been trying to process the traumatic event.
It’s an ongoing process, she said, but they are working through it.
They will carry the lessons they learned that day for a lifetime.
“One of my lifeguards, made her mom go shopping on Amazon for a professional rescue kit. So she could be on call,” Nannen said.