Joseph Anderson once saved someone’s life on the bank of the Kuskokwim River.
It happened like this, he says: He was sitting on his grandfather’s Bethel front porch sipping his morning coffee – “coffee royal, to tell you the truth; that’s coffee with whiskey” – when he noticed a man walking down on the boardwalk by the water.
“Just as fast as I put my coffee cup down I noticed he was gone, and the only explanation was he fell into the river,” Anderson said. “I was terrified, but something inside of me said, ‘Go save him, go save him!’”
It only took a few seconds to run down to the boardwalk. Anderson fell to his knees by the spot where the man disappeared. He plunged his arm into the murky, stormy river and felt a shoulder far beneath the surface, slipping deeper. He grabbed hold, pulled with all his might and hauled the man back up onto dry land, sopping wet but still alive.
“I don’t know how I got that strength,” Anderson said. “But I saved his life.”
That was more than 25 years ago. Sitting on a retaining wall in a Mountain View parking lot Monday morning, Anderson still tells the story like it happened yesterday.