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Liz Grinzo

Her training in project management helped Liz Grinzo, her husband and neighbors save three young women from drowning in a chilly upstate New York lake last month.

It was about 10 p.m. on May 19 when a neighbor pounded on Liz's door at the family's vacation house on Seneca Lake.

"Saturday night. My husband and I were watching a hockey game on TV, so we hadn't heard anything," Liz said. "When our neighbor, Cathy Gedon, came to the door, she was frantic. She had heard yelling coming from the lake. She said girls were drowning. She had just called 911."

The 600-foot deep, 38-mile long lake is the center of the region's wine and tourism industry.

There was a new moon, and it was pitch black outside.

Liz, a project manager in AT&T Business, grabbed flashlights and personal flotation devices.

Then she, husband Lou and neighbors paddled out in kayaks toward the screams.

Together, the rescuers pulled Alyssa Staba, 22, Cierra Green, 23, and Miranda Brown, 22, out of the lake about 150 feet from shore.

At the time of the accident, the three friends were staying at the lake cottage of Alyssa's grandparents. They took a paddleboat onto the lake at sunset. The boat, designed for just two people, capsized in choppy water.

There were no life jackets on board.

Alyssa was able to swim toward shore. Cathy helped her get out of the 49-degree water.

Cierra was trapped under the boat for a brief time. Neighbor George Gedon swam out to her, grabbed her unconscious body and swam back to shore while holding her head above the water. Emergency medical personnel arrived and performed CPR on the dock before taking her to the local hospital.

"Cierra was lifeless," Liz said. "She was completely limp. The EMTs lost her pulse five times. She's lucky. They had been in the water a long time."

Meanwhile, Lou made it to Miranda, who was suffering from the effects of hypothermia.

Just as the ambulance was about to leave with Cierra, Liz called the EMTs' attention to Miranda. She was also taken to the hospital.

Alyssa said she did not need medical help. Liz sat with her for hours. She helped her warm up. She talked with her reassuringly to help her calm down from the trauma. She made sure Alyssa was not alone. Then, when she was willing, Liz took her to the hospital.

Liz agrees that her training and experience as an AT&T project manager helped her throughout the ordeal. "Leadership, planning, communication, risk management, negotiation – they all came into play that night.

"We don't consider ourselves heroes," Liz said. "Anyone would have done exactly what we did, and we didn't do it by ourselves."

All three young women have fully recovered. They returned to the lake recently for a joyful reunion with their rescuers.

"There were lots of hugs and laughs, and some tears. The girls apologized. They gave us some very special gifts that we'll always cherish," Liz said.

Among their gifts, the girls gave their rescuers a special card that read, "Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. Thank you for our tomorrow."