It was a pleasant spring day at Tybee Island last week when Matt Zolan and Emily Larkin strolled down the beach with friends during their spring break.
No one expected a potential tragedy was right around the corner.
"We were looking at a sandbar and saw a family of five," Larkin said.
The family appeared to be having a great time as they began to cross the water from the sandbar, but suddenly, things changed.
"It was late afternoon and the tide was coming in," Zolan said.
The family - three teenagers and two adults - began crossing the water, "waist deep, then shoulder deep, then they started yelling for help."
"We immediately knew what was wrong," Larkin said.
Fortunately, she and Zolan, high school sweethearts from Kennesaw who both attend Georgia Southern University, are certified lifeguards.
"We work every summer at the pool back home," Zolan said.
The teens and their parents were "climbing all over each other trying to stay afloat," he said. "The current was pretty strong."
Two other men who heard the commotion ran to help as well, but Zolan and Larkin pulled the panicked people two at a time to safety, she said.
The family, who were Hispanic, spoke very little English and Larkin and Zolan didn't get their names, she said. But, they stayed with the family until they made sure everyone was safe.
They didn't get the names of the two men who helped, either.
The family "were very thankful," she said.
Both she and Zolan said they felt pretty good about being in the right place at precisely the right time.
"It felt pretty rewarding to save their lives," Zolan said. "I don't know what would have happened if we hadn't been there. It was pretty cool."
Larkin has been a lifeguard for about three years, "but I've never been an ocean lifeguard," she said. Zolan Has been a certified lifeguard for about seven years,
"We were very calm (during the crisis) because we knew we had to get them out," she said. "It felt very good afterwards. It was just by chance that we were there. It was a pretty eventful day."
Larkin is a sophomore at GSU majoring in early childhood education. Zolan, a junior, is majoring in finance management.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.