CORTLANDT MANOR, N.Y. – An 11-year-old Blue Mountain Middle School student performed the Heimlich maneuver on his choking friend, perhaps saving his life, after being taught the lifesaving procedure by his older brother.
"I was thinking what was happening," said Daniel Cunningham. He knew his friend was choking because "he was, like, showing me with his hands," he said, repeatedly pushing his hands against his chest.
Thursday afternoon, Emerson Alcock, 11, was eating a small piece of hamburger while walking to recess when he began choking. Emerson remembered the terrifying moment, saying, "I thought I was going to die."
Daniel instructed another friend, Donte White, 11, to get help from adults, and meanwhile performed the Heimlich maneuver on Emerson. When the piece of hamburger dislodged from Emerson's throat, Daniel said, it shot 3 feet across the hallway and tumbled down the school's stairs toward the cafeteria.
After the incident, the three went outside to play football while waiting for the school nurse. In the interim, Principal John Owens became aware of what had happened.
"My first reaction was relief that the victim was OK, followed by pride," Owens said.
Anne Marie Cunningham, Daniel's mother, said, "He just kind of told us the story very causally. He doesn't realize the magnitude of it. Now he's starting to get it."
She said she and her husband are, "just so proud. This is the biggest thing." Cunningham laughed joyfully as she discussed her son.
"Be aware" is a phrase that Cunningham said she and her husband frequently reiterate to their sons. "Lunchtime, there's got to be a hundred kids running around, and he took the time to notice and say, 'Oh my God, I've got to do something.' "
Daniel is a homeroom representative in the school government, and plays baseball, football and lacrosse. He says he doesn't have favorite sport, but his favorite athlete is Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.