03/27/2000 at 01:00 AM EST
It was one of those delightfully warm days that can fool the winter-weary into thinking the worst is over. So in Lima, Ohio, homemaker Cherie Snyder took her daughter Chasity, 11, down to the reservoir on March 6 to see if they could hook a few fish. Meanwhile, James H. Moore Sr., 36, a delivery driver, and Aaron Schafer, 22, a roofer, had already launched Moore's newly patched canoe on a test run. But the two men were about 25 yards from shore when the canoe started to roll. They jumped—without life jackets—into water so frigid that swimming was nearly impossible. Spotting the men struggling, Snyder, 30, waded in to try to save them, but quickly retreated because of the cold.
That's when Chas sprang into action. "I said, 'Chas, no!' " recalls her mother. But Chas shouted, "Mom, I have to! I've got to do something!" and then shed her yellow winter jacket and leaped in. Using the jacket as a flotation device she paddled out to Moore, who had slipped below the surface, and dragged him to where he could touch bottom. "I had floaties when I was little," says Chas, and explains that the jacket looked similar. Chas then helped Lynn Wallace, 41, who was on an afternoon walk, rescue Schafer. "If that little girl hadn't been there," Moore says of Chas, "I would be in the funeral home."
Back home after the rescue, Chas, who lives with Cherie and her four siblings, says she never doubted she could help the men: "My guardian angel and God gave me courage and told me I could do it and nothing would happen to me."