Yury Shapshal, 44, and Sam Shapshal, 14, were driving home to the Oaks of Boca Raton, Florida when they and two of Yury’s younger children noticed something wrong on the road. A crowd had gathered near a ripped section of guardrail. There was smoke coming from the canal. Then they saw a car overturned in one of west Boca Raton’s canals.
“Stop the car, Dad,” Sam Shapshal said.
The crowd didn’t seem to know what to do. There was one young man trapped in the car, which was filling up with water, and another young man in the canal pleading for help. And Florida canals are notorious for being home to alligators.
That’s when Yury did something that he says came to him almost automatically. He jumped in to save the young men. I say it was almost automatic, because he told me that he had one thought before rushing into the water. “I thought, ‘I might die doing this, but I know I can’t live with myself, if I don’t do it.’ See, I have three kids. I know what it would be like to lose one, God forbid.”
That’s Pain-2-Power. Pure and simple. It’s a willingness to accept the pain of risk for the long-term power of reinforcing one’s character.
What Yury Shapshal didn’t expect was that his son Sam would be right behind him. Sam leapt into the water, too. And then Yury Shapshal had another thought: How will I bear it, if my son is killed because of this choice I made? How will I explain this to his mother? Why didn’t I tell him to stay in the car?
Let me tell you something about Sam Shapshal, having spoken with him: He wouldn’t have stayed, anyhow. He is his father’s son.
As it happens, tragedy was averted. Father and son forced the car door open and pulled the man in the car out to safety.
Sam told a reporter, “I didn’t really think about it. I just went.” If only more human beings were Sam Shapshal, instead of the onlookers who stood on shore, watching the car fill with water, the world would be a safer place.
Dr. Keith Ablow
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