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Arriving home after her part-time job at Burger King, Lykesia Lilly planned to shoot some hoops. It was late afternoon on a Sunday. Maybe she’d even play some one-on-one with her little nephew Adrian before supper. But when Lilly asked her sister where the boy was, her casual question was met with concern. ‘I was outside looking for him because his dad and I realized we hadn’t seen him in a while,’ recalls Adrian’s mother, Stephanie Crump. ‘He was supposed to be playing at a house down the street, but when we called, he wasn’t there.’

In their tiny, rural community of Burnsville, North Carolina, kids still run freely from yard to yard, popping in and out of single-story brick houses with tree-lined lawns. Even traffic poses little threat. The hamlet’s centre consists of a single blinking caution light and two stores. But on that sunny May afternoon, six-year-old Adrian Clark seemed to have simply vanished. Much of his close and extended family joined in a frantic search, combing the neighbourhood and the energetic first grader’s usual play spots.

Finally, they heard faint cries coming from below a mound of rocks piled on his grandmother’s lawn. ‘We could hear him, but we couldn’t see him,’ recalls Lilly. ‘It was like he was invisible.’ Following his voice, they stumbled on an abandoned well covered with landscaping shale that had been forgotten for years. Somehow Adrian had pushed the slabs aside and slipped into the ragged hole in the ground. There, down the dark, narrow shaft, they saw him — a small figure 15 feet below, suspended over water. Exhausted and shivering, he’d been clinging to pieces of craggy rock and concrete for nearly an hour.

From the lip of the well, the family tried to reassure the child. But they had no idea how to get him out. The well was only 14 inches wide at the top, ‘the size of a five-gallon bucket,’ says Crump. ‘We realized none of the adults could fit through it.’ They lowered a long orange extension cord, but Adrian — who’d slipped into the murky, freezing water three times by now — was too afraid to let go of the wall to wrap the lifeline around himself.

Fighting hysteria, Crump made two calls to 911. One reached the local volunteer fire department, and the other, the Anson County EMS dispatcher, 13 miles away. But Crump still worried that Adrian would lose his grip before they got there. That’s when Lilly decided she had to go down — despite her inability to swim. ‘Everyone was panicking and crying, and I knew I couldn’t wait any longer,’ she recalls. ‘I just had to get my nephew.’

Crump and Adrian’s father, Dale Clark, lowered Lilly down the shaft as far as they could, then let go. The well got wider part of the way down, and she slid past her nephew and into the water below. Fortunately, Lilly instinctively pushed off the bottom, 12 feet underwater, and surfaced just under Adrian. ‘I got focused,* she says. With the water level just under her nose, Lilly then bolstered her 100-pound nephew, who was shaking in his soaking clothes. With one arm, she grabbed the cord that Adrian’s father was dangling from above and tied it around Adrian’s waist. ‘I was pushing him and holding on with my legs while they were pulling,’ Lilly says. ‘Somehow they got him out.’

Lilly herself was pulled out just as the rescue squad arrived. Both Adrian and Lilly were taken to the hospital, where he was blanketed with heat packs to ward off hypothermia and she was treated for bruises and lacerations. County workers sealed the well for good a few days later.

The next week, Crump threw a surprise party to honour the gentle-natured teen, who in the past had expressed fear of even the tamer rides at a nearby amusement park. *1 think if my baby had drowned, if he hadn’t been able to hold on …’ Crump says. ‘I can’t thank Lykesia enough.’ Now working in a day-care centre, Lilly is hoping for a scholarship to attend the University of North Carolina, where she wants to study forensics. ‘She’s more serious and responsible now,’ observes Crump. ‘I don’t think she knew she had it in her.’

Lilly and Adrian have been uniquely close since the rescue. ‘He reminds me all the time,’ she says fondly. ‘He’ll say, ‘Thank you, Auntie, for saving me.’ And he’ll hug me. Just out of the blue.

ВОПРОС 1 Arriving home, Lykesia Lilly intended
1) to take some photographs.
2) to shoot a gun with her nephew.
3) to play with a hula hoop.
4) to play basketball.

ВОПРОС 2 Burnsville is
1) a hamlet with almost no traffic.
2) a tiny village with no shops.
3) a small town in North Carolina.
4) a city with dangerous traffic.

ВОПРОС 3 Finally the family found Adrian
1) in a pile on his grandmother’s lawn.
2) in a deep hole under the stones.
3) in the river deep below the ground.
4) behind a mound of rocks.

ВОПРОС 4 Lilly decided she had to go down to Adrian because
1) she could swim very well.
2) the rescuers could arrive too late.
3) everyone was crying for help.
4) there were no other volunteers.

ВОПРОС 5 A few days later county workers
1) found a lot of goods in the well.
2) searched the well for goods.
3) closed the entrance of the well for ever.
4) fenced the well for good.

ВОПРОС 6 After the accident Lilly
1) got a scholarship to attend the University of North Carolina.
2) sees less of her nephew.
3) is as serious and responsible as she was before.
4) has changed for the better.

ВОПРОС 7 In the last paragraph ‘Just out of the blue’ means
1) heartily.
2) tightly.
3) unexpectedly.
4) energetically.

ВОПРОС 1: – 4
ВОПРОС 2: – 1
ВОПРОС 3: – 2
ВОПРОС 4: – 2
ВОПРОС 5: – 3
ВОПРОС 6: – 4
ВОПРОС 7: – 3