Rescue boat approaches, flooded street, Hurricane Harvey

Source: Prairie Pictures / Getty

In the age of Black Panther and other Black heroes being highlighted, we’re seeing one courageous Black boy get his shine.

Virgil Smith of Hitchcock, Tex., was riding out Hurricane Harvey in a stranger’s apartment as his complex was being flooded—until he got a call from his friend in another building. The 13 year old’s friend Keshaun told him that he and his family were having trouble evacuating the apartment, due to flooding. Nobody in the family knew how to swim.

“The water started getting higher, so we went outside to see if we could see something and saw [Virgil] swimming around,” his friend Keshaun said.

Smith swam back to his apartment in the middle of the storm, pulled out his family’s air mattress, and went to rescue them immediately.

“I put him, his two sisters, one baby, and his brother, and I had my other friend by the hand right here, and I set his momma and his step-dad on the air mattress,” said Smith. “It was my friends and family, I wasn’t afraid of drowning or nothing.”

With the help of two other neighbors, Virgil was able to rescue other neighbors in need, even an elderly woman in a wheelchair.

When the Medal of Honor Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, heard his story, they awarded Virgil one of its five annual Citizen Hero awards. Virgil and his mother flew to Washington D.C. for the ceremony Friday (March 23). Although her son is asthmatic, Lisa Wallace had the utmost faith in him.

“All I [was] thinking about is, ‘I know he’s able to save,” Wallace told ABC. “He can rescue, he can swim, and I just had faith in the Lord that everything was gonna be all right.”