In 1964, Eady Rothstein was just a 5-year-old girl hanging out with her family by a pool near Lido Beach on Long Island, New York.
But she fell into the water and nearly drowned before a 21-year-old lifeguard, Larry Brickman, saved her life.
And now, NBC 4 New York reports that nearly 50 years later Rothstein has tracked down the former lifeguard to thank him for rescuing her.
"I've always said I wanted to thank him, and I should do it," Rothstein said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3,533 people drowned in the U.S. from 2005 to 2009, about 700 per year. But that number was much higher in previous decades before CPR and other life-saving medical innovations became more readily available. According to the Original Watermen, some 9,000 people drowned in the U.S. each year after swimming became a national phenomenon in the early 1900s, and before beaches began to employ lifeguards to help protect swimmers.
In August 2012, an electronic lifeguard device named EMILY was sent on its first rescue mission. The buoy-like device can travel up to 22 mph and serves as a flotation device for struggling swimmers.
On Wednesday, the local branch of the YMCA in Austin, Texas, announced it was hiring lifeguards for the summer to help fill a shortage at public pools in the city.
After the 1964 rescue, Rothstein and Brickman fell out of contact. So, Rothstein went online and looked for Brickman’s contact information after finding a reference to him in her family scrapbook.
After she found his phone number, the two were able to connect over the phone and plan to meet in person sometime soon.
"My final words to her when I hung up that day, after I called her back, were, 'You know, I guess we just got very lucky, you and I both,'" Brickman told NBC.
Both Rothstein and Brickman say his knowledge of CPR, which was rare at the time, was instrumental in the rescue.
"If no one was there to do this, I'm afraid she would have succumbed," Brickman said.
"I owe my life, and it's a very nice feeling to finally be able to say, 'Thank you,'" Rothstein added.