Christopher Jones walked into the Columbus Police Academy last week and tapped an officer on the shoulder.
Since Jones was 5 years old, he has never forgotten the name of Officer James Poole.
“Do you remember me?” Jones asked Poole.
Poole shook Jones’ hand and looked at him politely, but didn’t recognize him. Jones quickly refreshed his memory.
“About 1997, you pulled a 5-year-old out of a swimming pool, saved his life,” Jones said.
The realization washed over Poole, who stood up and wrapped his arms around Jones, now a 24-year-old man who nearly drowned those many years ago.
Friday’s reunion at the academy on the West Side came about after Jones saw a photo posted last month on the Columbus Division of Police Facebook page. In it, Officer Poole was attending a back-to-school gathering at a South Side church.
Jones knew that an Officer Poole had saved his life, so he commented on the post, asking whether it might be the same officer.
Soon, Jones, of New Albany, was contacted by the Police Division to organize a surprise reunion with the officer.
So as Poole sat on a couch in the Police Academy lobby that afternoon, ready with notes for what he thought would be a discussion with the media about his role as a community liaison officer, Jones was outside waiting to walk in and greet the officer.
After Jones arrived, Poole quickly realized that his notes weren’t necessary and that he’d been summoned for another reason.
“I never thought that something I would do 19, 20 years later would come back, and somebody would thank me,” Poole, 43, said.
It was the summer of 1997, Jones said, when Poole pulled him from the bottom of a Columbus swimming pool. At the time, Poole was new as an officer, having joined the Police Division just the year before. Jones doesn’t remember all the details, but he knows his heart had stopped, and he was told that he’d been underwater for 15 or 20 minutes.
Both men had tears in their eyes as they recalled that day and all that’s happened in the nearly 20 years since. Tagging along was Jones’ 5-year-old daughter, Aleah Roach.
“Because of you, I’m still here,” Jones told Poole. “Because of you, this 5-year-old little girl right here is here.”
“Law enforcement is definitely a rewarding job,” Poole said to Jones. “You are a perfect example of the reward that we get out of it.”
Jones, who works for a concrete supplier, said he’s been considering trying to become a police officer, and Poole is no small part of that.
“He is exactly what I want to be,” Jones said.