Officer presents diploma to graduate he helped rescue 17 years ago
Receiving a high school diploma is one of the most unforgettable moments in most people’s lives, but to be handed the sheepskin by the man who helped save your life makes the memory indelible. That was the scenario Sunday afternoon at Tecumseh High School when Tecumseh Police Officer William Warner stepped to center stage to give Dusin Jones his diploma.
The ceremony of presenting the certificate of graduation is normally reserved for school board members and principals, but the Tecumseh School Board voted unanimously to honor the request of Amy Jones and her son Dustin to allow Warner to present the diploma to the boy he helped rescue 17 years ago.
Amy was driving on snow-covered West Pottawatamie Street in Tecumseh on a January day in 1996 with Dustin in the seat beside her when she noticed that the passenger door was not completely closed. As she slowed and pulled to the curb to get out and close the door, the truck bumped the curb and the door flew open. Dustin fell from the cab of the truck and the rear wheel came to rest on top of his chest. The quick action of Officer Warner and three other men who teamed up to lift the back end of the truck and slide Dustin out saved the 19-month-old boy.
The men immediately began taking turns at administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) after calling for an ambulance. The snowy weather on that day kept life-flight helicopters grounded, so Dustin was taken by ambulance to Mott’s Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor where doctors reported him to be in critical condition.
At the school board meeting in March, where the Jonses made the request to allow Warner to present Dustin’s diploma, Amy said, “I never thought that he would live, but he is here tonight.” Dustin’s injuries included a fractured skull and punctured lungs, among other severe physical trauma.
Board President Ed Tritt recommended to his fellow trustees that permission be granted for an exception to the normal practice of handing out the diplomas to grant the Joneses’ request. “Officer Warner is a city employee who did something truly extraordinary,” Tritt said. “I think we should make an exception in this case and honor the request of this family.”
Amy and Dustin have never forgotten the care, concern, and immediate action of responders who saved Dustin’s life. They have been sending class pictures of Dustin to his rescuers every year since.
On Sunday, Officer Warner handed Dustin his diploma to applause from the entire assembly. Many in attendance were seen to be dabbing tears from their eyes at the emotionally charged moment.