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Too Shallow for Swimming With Sharks

University of Florida student Stefani Luke loved the ocean. She lived to be on the water. She was given a surfboard when she was in high school, but growing up in Ft. Lauderdale didn’t offer her much opportunity to ride any exciting waves. Going to college in Gainesville, Florida would provide her with a chance to take weekend trips to the popular beach town, St. Augustine to check out some waves. 

One stormy Tuesday, Stefani and some friends heard the news about coastal swells reaching up to five feet. They loaded up their boards and began a caravan. There were 11 kids but only 8 surfboards. She was excited to finally have the chance to use her board on some real waves, but she was also very aware of sharks. She was a biology major, recently working as an intern at the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Most of her work there was done in a lab or in area rivers. The biggest risk at her job had been alligators. 

Stefani’s love of the ocean and interest in fisheries compelled her to stay abreast of shark activity along the east coast. She knew that in 2019, reports of shark attacks, either provoked or unprovoked, reached nearly 150. 

The kids arrived at the beach, ready for some refreshing water and salty air. Today was a day to enjoy a day out of school. They unloaded the boards from their roof racks. Stefani waxed her beloved board alongside her good friends. Since there were more kids there than boards, Stefani offered her board up to a friend to try first. She figured she’d just do a little body surfing to warm up her muscles before fully engaging on her board. 

The waves were slightly disappointing. The stories they’d heard about giant waves were exaggerated, topping out at maybe three feet. She swam into the surf and waited. She thought she was a good distance from the surfers with boards. The water was a little colder than expected, and she hadn’t brought her wet suit. She swam parallel to the shore for a bit, to warm up. She ended up swimming close to her friend who’d borrowed her board. She waited in the line up, just beyond the breaking point of the waves. She was ready to body surf and catch some waves. 

The waves were coming in sets of four. She took the first in a set. It picked her up and she swam with it. As she glided in toward the shore she saw the dark shadow of what she knew was a shark. Everyone knows that you don’t panic when you see a shark. You don’t thrash around in the water. You don’t show signs of distress that signal to a shark that you’re easy prey. She forgot all that. All Stefani could think was “I don’t want to get eaten by a shark today!” She swam for her life. She swam fast, and probably a little crazy. 

The realization of her frenzy made her calm down slightly. She dropped the panicky swimming. She stopped swimming to realize that she was only in about a foot of water! She felt very silly, probably looking like a fool to anyone who might’ve seen this spectacle. 

She stood in the water to see her friend that had borrowed her board. Her friend asked with excitement, “Did you see that shark?!” Stefani acknowledged that she had in fact seen it. Her friend offered her the board back. Stefani declined, “No thanks. I like my legs. I like walking”. It was at that moment that Stefani gave her board away. She was done surfing and never tried it again. 

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Twin Hero Receives Royal Award for Bravery

Kevin Wells

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Three years ago, an ordinary vacation in Mexico turned into a scene from a movie when a crocodile attacked two sisters while swimming in a river. Georgia and Melissa, twins who were enjoying their time in the water, suddenly found themselves in a terrifying situation. Georgia reached safety, but as Melissa was being helped onto the bank, the crocodile struck again, pulling her underwater.

In a brave and daring move, Georgia, who is now 31 years old, didn’t hesitate. She jumped back into the water, not once but twice, to fight off the massive reptile and save her sister. This incredible act of courage has earned Georgia the King’s Gallantry Medal, a prestigious award given by King Charles III. This medal is a tribute to civilians who risk their own lives to save others.

Georgia shared with the UK’s PA Media news agency that receiving this award brings a “silver lining” to their horrifying experience. She said it somewhat eases the trauma they went through.

Melissa’s ordeal was severe. She suffered from multiple injuries including a complicated wrist fracture, deep puncture wounds to her stomach, and bites on her leg, foot, and glutes. She had to undergo emergency surgery and was even placed in a medically induced coma to fight off a life-threatening infection known as sepsis. Thankfully, she fully recovered after a tough battle in the hospital.

Now, with the nightmare behind them, Georgia and Melissa are channeling their experience into something positive. They are planning to swim 13 kilometers in the Thames Marathon this August. Their goal is to raise money for PTSD UK and Compañeros En Salud, a charity in Mexico that helps provide medical training and aid to communities in need.

Reflecting on the incident, Georgia admits that it sometimes feels like a distant, unreal memory. “It sounds like something out of a horror movie,” she says. But for them, it’s a part of their life story, a dramatic chapter in their personal tapestry.

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A Lifesaving Donation: 91-Year-Old Contributes $500,000 to Rural Missouri Fire Department

Jess

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In Calhoun, Missouri, a heartfelt gesture from a 91-year-old resident has brought new life to the local volunteer fire department. Sam Sloan, a long-time community supporter, has donated a staggering $500,000 to the Calhoun Volunteer Fire Department, a gift that will transform the small but dedicated team of firefighters.

When Chief Hardin first took over the department, it was a struggle to keep things running. “It needed a lot of work,” he said. The department had only one functioning fire truck, and most of the equipment was outdated, dating back to the 1980s. Despite these challenges, Hardin saw potential and opened the doors wide to the community for support. Through Facebook posts and frequent training sessions, he expanded the team from a one-man operation to 28 devoted volunteers.

Today, the department prides itself on being “very active and very aggressive,” not standing back but diving into the challenges of firefighting head-on. The department has made significant repairs to the old trucks and takes great pride in their work, embodying a sense of community and resilience.

Sam Sloan, who has been a pillar of the Henry County community since 1960, decided it was time to make a significant contribution. “I’ve been planning to for several years,” Sloan said about his donation. “It’s half a million dollars and a half a million dollars is a pretty good donation.”

The department plans to use Sloan’s generous donation to purchase three new fire trucks and update all the necessary equipment and gear for the volunteers. “The first thing that we’re going to replace is our tanker pumper,” Hardin explained. This vital piece of equipment had been patched up multiple times over the past year and was desperately in need of replacement.

This donation comes at a crucial time, as just before the donation, the department had only $169 left in their bank account. Now, with Sloan’s contribution, every firefighter will soon be fitted with brand new, state-of-the-art gear. “Every one of our firefighters, from head to toe, we’re going to be fitted next Monday for new gear,” Hardin announced.

While Sloan humbly downplays his role, saying he knows more about making money than fixing fire trucks, his impact on the community is undeniable. “We’re going to help our neighbors. We’re going to pass that along,” Hardin affirmed, grateful for the donation.

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Teen Math Whizzes Solve Ancient Problem

Shannon Jackson

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In a remarkable display of intellectual prowess, two high school seniors, Ne’Kiya Jackson and Calcea Johnson, have achieved what many thought was impossible: they’ve provided a new trigonometry-based proof of the Pythagorean Theorem, solving a mathematical challenge that has puzzled scholars for two millennia.

Studying at St. Mary’s Academy, an all-girls Catholic school in New Orleans, these bright students have been encouraged to reach for the stars. The school, founded just after the Civil War by an African American nun, aims to empower young Black women with the belief that anything is possible. According to junior Christina Blazio, “That is kind of a standard here. So we aim very high – like, our aim is excellence for all students.”

In December 2022, a school-wide math contest promising a $500 prize challenged students to come up with a new proof for the Pythagorean Theorem—a fundamental principle in geometry that states that in a right triangle, the square of the length of the hypotenuse (the side opposite the right angle) is equal to the sum of the squares of the lengths of the other two sides.

Despite the daunting task and knowing full well that math was not easy, Ne’Kiya and Calcea dove into the challenge. What they didn’t know was that their quest involved solving a problem using trigonometry, something that was considered impossible since no known proofs using this branch of mathematics had succeeded in 2,000 years.

After two months of dedicated effort, the seniors developed a proof they titled “The Waffle Cone.” Calcea explains, “We start with a regular right triangle, and then we draw a second congruent triangle. We continue creating similar but smaller right triangles in a pattern that eventually forms a larger waffle cone shape.”

Their achievement is not just a personal victory but a monumental contribution to the field of mathematics, placing them alongside a very exclusive list of intellectuals who have managed to provide a documented proof using trigonometry. Before them, the last such achievement was in 2009 by mathematician Jason Zimba.

The news of their success spread quickly around the globe, earning them accolades from numerous dignitaries, including a shout-out from former First Lady Michelle Obama and keys to the city of New Orleans.

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Quick-Acting Barbers Save Toddler from Busy Street

Kevin Wells

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Two barbers from East Hartford are being hailed as heroes after they sprinted into action to prevent a little girl from running into traffic. Osvaldo Lugo, the owner of Look Sharp Barbershop, and his employee, Rafael Santana, noticed the child when she dashed past their shop.

The incident, caught on the shop’s surveillance camera, shows the barbers interrupting their work to chase after the girl who was heading towards a busy intersection. Lugo, a father of three, managed to catch her just in time at a crosswalk. He recalls his urgent thoughts during the chase, focusing solely on reaching the girl safely.

After rescuing her, Lugo found the toddler’s mother nearby at a bus stop, visibly confused and shocked but also thankful. Santana, who is also a father and expecting another child, emphasized the importance of vigilance, especially with children.

Following their heroic act, the city’s mayor awarded Santana and Lugo with certificates recognizing their bravery. The local police also praised the duo for their quick response, which prevented a potential disaster. Despite the accolades, Santana humbly attributes their success to simply being attentive dads with fortunate timing.

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Rare Blue Rock Thrush Spotted in Oregon for the First Time

Kelly Taylor

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In an exciting development for birdwatchers, a “mega-rare” blue rock thrush was spotted for the first time in U.S. history at Oregon’s Hug Point State Recreation Site. The sighting occurred on April 21 and has since caused quite a stir in the birding community.

Michael Sanchez, a resident of Vancouver, was at Hug Point photographing the falls at sunrise when he noticed a small bird near the shoreline. Initially appearing as a little black bird in the dim light, it wasn’t until Sanchez reviewed his photos at home that he realized the bird was actually a vivid blue and chestnut-colored. He shared the images on social media, seeking help to identify it, which led to the revelation of its rarity.

Nolan Clements, a PhD student and member of the Oregon Birding Association, confirmed that the bird is a blue rock thrush, native to Europe and Asia and typically not found in North America. This sighting is considered only the second unofficial sighting in North America, with the first being a controversial observation in British Columbia in 1997, which many believed to be an escaped captive bird or one accidentally transported on a cargo ship.

The recent sighting at Hug Point has attracted many birders to the area hoping for a glimpse of the thrush, though no further sightings have been reported. While Sanchez’s discovery is still under review by bird records committees, experts are intrigued about how the thrush may have arrived in the U.S. There is speculation that, like other rare birds, it might have traveled aboard a ship, although the exact means remain uncertain.

Sanchez is collaborating with the Oregon Bird Records Committee to provide detailed information about his sighting. He expressed regret for not taking more photos but remains pleased with the ones he captured, hopeful that his experience will inspire increased interest in birdwatching.

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