In most ways, Trevor Hall is like any other 17-year-old. The Zion, Ill., teen likes having fun with friends; and is looking forward to higher education and starting his own business.
However, Hall differs from most of his peers in at least two respects: He is openly gay, and he has been thrust into the national spotlight because he saved the life of another teen.
Saving a life
On Aug. 23, Hall was traveling with a large group of family and friends at Silver Lake in Kenosha, Wis. "We were just going for a picnic," Hall told Windy City Times. "We got there around 1 o'clock; at 5 o'clock I still hadn't gone in the water. It was nasty and I had just spent 45 minutes on my hair.
"However, something told me to go into the water. So I got in and, two minutes later, this all happened. I don't know if it was the good Lord above who told me to go in the water. I don't know what it was."
"My friend, Briana, and my cousin, Nicole [ Bollinger ] , heard somebody say, 'Help.' I was up to my shoulders in water, and I stand 5'8". I was telling other people not to splash me because of the water. But then I saw this [ 14-year-old ] kid bobbing in the water, and I was just gone. My friends said that I swam so fast I looked like I was on top of the water.
"So I get to this kid and he's well into the water. I got to him and he was cold and hard as a rock; I thought he was deadI have no doubt in my mind. I just put him over my head; it felt like he had weighed 200 pounds, he had swallowed so much water.
"I [ too ] was swallowing so much water but all I thought was, 'I don't care what happens to me. I'm gonna die but I don't care what happens to me as long as this kid is alright.'
"Unfortunately, this kid didn't know how to swim. I have no idea why he was even out there." Eventually, Hall was able to hand the teen over to Bollinger.
The lake is staffed with lifeguardsso where was the one on duty? According to Hall, "I noticed that the lifeguard had something in her hand and something shiny in her hand and headphones in her ears. If she didn't have those headphones in her ears, she would've heard him." Hall added that the troubled teen had three cousins with him, but they were apparently unable to swim.
[ Editor's note: Windy City Times spoke with Jennie Tunkieicz of the Kenosha County executive's office. She said that Hall's account regarding the lifeguard "was incorrect. [ The lifeguard ] had an iPod but she was using it as a clock; she was not wearing earbuds." Tunkieicz also said that the lifeguard did not hear the teen because the incident "happened outside the safe swim zone" but that the lifeguard responded once she realized there was "a commotion."
Tunkieicz added that the office is "grateful to Mr. Hall that he was able to achieve a positive outcome. ]
Continuing to recall the incident, Hall said, " [ The teen ] was just throwing up and Nicole was trying to give him the Heimlich, although Kenosha said she was wrong for doing that. But guess what? She's not a lifeguard, so how was she supposed to know?
At this point, Hall became emotional: "I kept thinking he was deadand I was flipping out on this lifeguard. Nicole handed him off to a friend of ours, Veronica, who's a CNA [ certified nursing assistant ] . So she [ then ] handed him over to the lifeguard, who put him on his back.
"I was shaking, throwing up, going crazy. At this point, the paramedics got there, took him off to the ER and said to me, 'We want you to go to the hospital.' I said, 'I'm OK.'" However, according to Hall, the paramedics said that they could not legally leave him without a medical analysis.
He said that that the hospital, the Aurora Medical Center, ran several tests on him, including "an EKG and chest X-rays." The boy Hall saved went to his room and hugged him, and the teen's mom profused thanked Hall as well: "She said, 'I don't know how I'll ever repay you. I just got married two days ago ... and I don't know what I would do right now if I had to identify my child."
However, a harsh reality hit Hall after saving the fellow teen's life. The Aurora Medical Center billed him $2,000 for the tests.
After public pressure ( including articles that ran in publications such as the Chicago Sun-Times ) , the hospital relented and waived the bills. According to the Sun-Times, Aurora Medical Center spokesman Michael Brophy said, "The family has been through enough. We've just made the decision not to send them a bill. Why make them go through another process?" Unfortunately for Hall, he still had to pay the ambulance fee, which he said is "close to $800."
On Aug. 30, Hall was slated to receive a resolution in a ceremony at the Daley Center that included Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock; Hall was also to receive a check to cover the ambulance fees.
Regarding his future, Hall said that he plans to go to cosmetology school in the Quad Cities area, and then hopes to open a salon.
When asked if he felt like a hero or role model, Hall cited something Bollinger said: "I don't feel like it's heroic; I feel like it's human." He added, "I feel like anybody in their right mind [ would not ] let anybody die in front of him. Maybe I am to Aaron [ the teen Hall saved ] and his family."
Hall also had words for anyone who felt that, somehow, this was all for publicity: "I didn't call anybody. After I went to bed [ for a couple hours ] , I had 35 missed calls from news reporters and newspapers. People were parked outside of my house. ... How they found out where I live or my phone number, I have no idea."
Looking back on what transpired Aug. 23, though, Hall told Windy City Times that he has been changed forever: "It was a life-changing experience. I'll never be the same person. My outlook on life is so different now because death is just a blink [ away ] . I never imagined any of this."