Taylor Kowalski was running late to class. The Eastlake senior and Running Start student at Bellevue College had overset her alarm clock and was hustling to her early morning English class. Kowalski was kicking herself for being late for the first time in over five weeks, an accomplishment a non-morning person could be proud of.
Suddenly her focus shifted to concern and then action as she witnessed the collapse of campus police officer James McClung at around 6:40 a.m. Nov. 7.
Wearing a thick yellow jacket that read Security across the back, McClung stopped in his tracks, yelled and then fell to the ground, not moving.
Kowalski jumped into action and ran to the man laying unconscious on the cold cement.
“When I heard the yell, it didn’t register at first that it came from him,” Kowalski said. “I thought maybe someone had hit him and run off. I knew something was wrong so I instinctively ran to him.”
When Kowalski reached McClung, she quickly turned him over so he could breath and dialed 9-1-1. She held McClung’s hand and spoke to him as she described his condition to the paramedics on the phone and attempted to give them directions to her location.
“All I could think was if this was me, I would want someone near me, talking me through it whether I could hear them or not,” she said. “I was trying to give the paramedics our location all while trying to talk to talk calmly to (McClung). The location we were at on campus was far from the main road and was difficult to describe the exact location.”
Kowalski could see emergency lights flashing in the distance as the paramedics tried to find her.
“I felt like so much time passed. I watched to make sure his chest was moving up and down and I noticed that his hands got really cold, really fast,” she explained. “It’s scary to think if I had been on time that day, no one would have been around to help him. I believe it happened for a reason.”
McClung had spent more than two decades as a Colorado State Trooper and Bellevue College campus cop. The 70 year old was wrapping up his graveyard shift when he collapsed. The family said doctors are still somewhat unsure as to what caused McClung to lose consciousness and fall. He was released from the hospital later that day and is recovering at home, according to his family.
McClung’s wife called Kowalski several days after the incident to thank her for heroic act.
“The feedback that I got from the school and family was that, had I not been there and had not acted so quickly, the man probably would not have lived,” Kowalski said. “I stepped aside when the paramedics arrived and let them do their job. There were quite a few firefighters and medics on the scene and they got out and shook my hand one by one. To be called a hero by the men and women who are everyday heros was a huge honor.”
Kowalski plans to study journalism and, because of this experience, plans to pursue an EMT certification as well.
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