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She applied what she knew; he lived

Red Wing’s Sydney Book poses with her American Red Cross Youth Good Samaritan Hero Award, which she received last week at an event in Minneapolis. Book helped comfort a motorcyclist injured in crash last October before paramedics arrived. (Republican Eagle photo by Michael Brun)

On a weeknight last October, 15-year-old Sydney Book and her mother, Wendy Book, were driving back from a Hastings volleyball game to their home in Red Wing.

As they traveled with a pack of vehicles on Highway 316, a white car pulled out into the opposite lane and speed up to pass them. Just then, the single headlight of a motorcycle crested the hill ahead.

“I said to Sydney, ‘Oh my God, he’s going to hit him,” Wendy Book said, recalling the events that transpired.

She slowed down to give the white car space to get back in the lane, but it was too late. The car hit the motorcycle head-on, severing the rider’s leg and causing him to fly into the ditch.

The crash changed the lives of several people that night, including Sydney, who was recognized for her courageous actions and quick thinking to comfort the injured motorcyclist before rescuers arrived. Last week she accepted a 2014 American Red Cross Youth Good Samaritan Hero Award for her part in saving the man’s life.

Sydney was told to stay put and call 911 while her mother went to find the injured man, but the Red Wing High School student said she couldn’t sit by while someone was hurt.

“I knew that if it was my dad, or mom or sister that I would want someone to do the same,” she said. “So I just kind of regrouped myself and went over there.”

On her way to the ditch, Sydney said she passed the severed foot still in its shoe, but she was undeterred. As her mother and another passerby tended to the man, Sydney started to ask him questions.

“I just talked to him about his family, if he had a wife or kids and if they were in sports — just to get his mind off (the injury),” she said. Then she prayed for him, something she remembered hearing that her grandmother, a critical care nurse, would do in these situations.

Along with her grandmother’s teachings, she credits the training she received in a Red Cross babysitting class for helping her react to the situation. Although the class didn’t go into first-responder training, she said nonverbal cues of infants are similar for someone in shock or unable to communicate.

Dakota County Deputy Sheriff Timothy Fletcher, who was among the first authorities to arrive at the scene, nominated Sydney for the award. According to the Red Cross, Fletcher believes her calm questioning helped delay the effects of shock and kept the man alive.

Wendy Book said she and her husband are proud of their daughter, and hope she can serve as a model for others on how to behave in a crisis.

“The thing I learned is it doesn’t matter how old you are,” Sydney Book said. “As long as you put others before you, you’re a hero.”

Learn first aid tips

 Coming across an injured person can be a frightening ordeal, especially without knowing the best way to respond. The American Red Cross offers classes for adults and children covering topics such as first aid, child care, water safety and emergency preparedness.

Class availability and signup information is available online at

The organization also has a phone app that guides users through common emergency situations with videos and step-by-step instructions. Find it in the iTunes, Google Play and Amazon stores.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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