OSWEGO, NY – The accolades continue to roll in for a pair of life-saving Oswego teens. On Tuesday, they received one of the highest honors New York State can bestow on a civilian – the New York State Senate Liberty Medal.
Today (Oct. 2), State Senator Patty Ritchie presented the prestigious medal to Julia and Michele Lavery.
The sisters were honored for their part in helping save the lives of three people when their boat overturned this summer on Sandy Pond.
Julia and Michele were called to Oswego High School Principal Brian Hartwell’s office shortly before 2 p.m. They said they didn’t know why; but were somewhat suspicious when they spotted Sen. Ritchie and Oswego County Today waiting outside the principal’s door.
“We weren’t expecting this at all,” Michele said.
“I’m glad I could be here today to present these honors because this is the part of the job I really enjoy the best,” the senator said. “I am happy to honor people from my district who do good things. Today is even more special because I am able to present each of you with the New York State Senate Liberty award, which is one of the highest awards that New York State presents to civilians for doing something heroic or something exceptional.”
Many times accidents on the water end in tragedy, the senator said.
However, it was in August when, according to reports, Julia spotted two boats, one capsized and one upright, nearly a half-mile out in the water, Sen. Ritchie explained.
Julia alerted her father and her sister, Michele, who went out on their jet ski to see if they could help, she added.
They reportedly found a 13-year-old boy, a 7-year-old girl and their grandfather in the upright boat. The children were in a boat that the grandfather was towing, when the wind tipped it over, tossing them into the water.
All of them were frightened and cold following the incident and the Laverys brought everyone back safely to shore, the senator said, adding that, “This story could have had a very different ending if it wasn’t for the courage of Julia and Michele Lavery.”
“For the two of you to have the incentive and forethought to react so quickly and I’m sure change the course of events that day and make sure that that family was safe really goes above and beyond and you should be recognized for it,” Sen. Ritchie continued. “So, I am honored to present the Liberty Medal to these two brave young women. You are also an inspiration to many young people; and for many old people that I’ve run into that have commented about this story. It’s not very often that you hear of people this age stepping up to help someone else in their time of need. I applaud them for doing that and for setting a great example for all other young people to follow.”
She presented each of the girls with a certificate of recognition from the New York State Senate and then placed the medal around their necks.
“This is the first time in my tenure that I’ve presented these Liberty awards,” the senator said. “Thank you. You both really did an impressive job and we are all proud of you.”
Hartwell agreed with the senator.
“We are very proud of both of these young ladies,” he said. “We need a thousand more just like them. They’re very impressive
Would the sisters do it again?
“Yes,” they quickly replied in unison. Adding they didn’t expect so much attention.
“They told me they did it, but really didn’t want everybody to know that they did,” Sen. Ritchie told Oswego County Today. “They just did what they felt was the right thing to do. That’s what makes them so special; they did something so wonderful yet didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.”
The sisters were previously honored by the Oswego County Legislature and just recently the Oswego Board of Education.
According to the senator, the New York State Senate Liberty Medal is one of the highest civilian honors that a New Yorker can receive. Similar to the national Congressional Gold Medal, the award is given to individuals who have merited special commendation for exceptional, heroic, or humanitarian acts and achievements on behalf of their fellow New Yorkers.
“The Liberty Medal stands for heroism, and I can’t think of two young women more deserving of this honor than Julia and Michele Lavery ,” said Sen. Ritchie. “The unthinkable could have happened if it weren’t for their bravery and willingness to take action. For that, we are all thankful.”