Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley greets Keishallene Lewis-Morrison, widow of Otis Morrison who was honoured with a posthumous award at the National Awards ceremony, NAPA, Port of Spain on Saturday. – SUREASH CHOLAI
Otis Morrison received a national award posthumously for gallantry in bittersweet circumstances.
Despite his heroic final act — sacrificing his life by saving a drowning child — the gesture honouring him surprised the family.
His grieving widow, Keishallene Lewis-Morrison, spoke briefly to Sunday Newsday on Saturday.
“We were not expecting it. We are proud of him,” she said.
Morrison, the 36-year-old boat engineer from Gonzales Village, Guapo, was awarded the Hummingbird bronze medal.
The father of two was with his family at Guapo Beach (formerly Clifton Hill Beach) on August 1 when he saw a girl struggling and crying out for help in the water.
Without hesitation, he rushed to help the young stranger — Tahira Checkley, 11, from Marabella. He kept her afloat until other people arrived and took her to the shore.
However, he experienced difficulties in the water, and other beachgoers also took him to the shore. He was taken to the Point Fortin Area Hospital, where he died.
One of Lewis-Morrison’s close relatives said it was “a sensitive time” for the widow.
“It is something the public may see as heroic, but it is still a loss, and she is still grieving.”
The girl’s grandmother, Marlene Rock, 59, believes he deserved all praises for his selfless act.
“That is really nice of them to award him. It is a blessing in disguise. He more than deserved it. He saved a life! It is so rare that we hear things like this happening. I am sure his family would be proud of him,” Rock said.
Since the tragedy, the child’s mother has constantly communicated with the Morrison family.
At his funeral on August 11, Tahira paid tribute to the man who saved her life. She read a poem titled My Hero for mourners.
Part of the poem read, “I once saw a hero through the light, who pushed the waves aside with all his might. Brave and fearless he stroked towards me, making sure I was brought to safety.”
“Heroes walk among us but never look for glory or praise. Neither do they seek recognition for their thoughtful caring ways.”
At the funeral, mourners said he usually helped anyone and everyone in need.