The Kiss of Life; A Story of Bravery and Survival

The Kiss of Life; A Story of Bravery and Survival

Explore the compelling narrative behind an iconic image and its historical significance. Join us as we unravel the brave rescue that unfolded in Jacksonville, Florida, shedding light on the unsung heroes who went above and beyond to save a life.

In the heat of July, photographer Rocco Morabito was en route to a photo assignment in Jacksonville, Florida. Passing West 26th Street, he noticed two Jacksonville Electric Authority workers engaged in routine maintenance on a power pole. Little did Morabito know that an unforeseen tragedy was about to unfold.

Photo credit: “The Kiss of Life” by Rocco Morabito / Source

At the pinnacle of the pole, Randall G. Champion, one of the workers, accidentally made contact with an electric line. In an instant, a powerful surge of electricity surged through his body, rendering him unconscious. Despite being safely equipped with protective gear, Champion's life hung in the balance.

J.D. Thompson, Champion's colleague working on a different pole about 400 feet away, rushed to the scene upon hearing cries for help. Realizing that traditional CPR was impossible with Champion suspended in the air, Thompson had to think fast to save his coworker's life.

With limited options, Thompson made a daring decision. He sealed Champion's mouth with his own and breathed life into his lungs. After a series of forceful chest compressions, Thompson detected a faint pulse. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, Thompson unfastened his colleague from the harness, slung him over his shoulder, and began the descent down the pole.

Once on the ground, Thompson and another coworker administered CPR until paramedics arrived. Champion's pulse strengthened, and he began breathing on his own, albeit partially conscious. Time was of the essence, and the heroic actions of Thompson and his team proved pivotal.

Photographer Rocco Morabito, who initially stopped to capture routine images of the workers, grasped the gravity of the situation. Using his car's two-way radio, Morabito called for an ambulance and captured the powerful moment of Thompson giving Champion the "kiss of life" on camera. The image garnered global attention and earned the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in 1968.

Thanks to J.D. Thompson's quick thinking and valor, Randall G. Champion received a second lease on life. Champion lived for another 35 years before peacefully passing away in 2002 at the age of 64. Morabito, the photographer, sadly left us in April 2009. At the time of writing, J.D. Thompson, the hero of this extraordinary tale, was thriving.

Photo credit: Morabito with his Pulitzer Prize-winning photo / Source

The Jacksonville rescue narrative serves as a poignant reminder of the remarkable bravery and selflessness exhibited by ordinary individuals who transform into heroes in the face of extraordinary circumstances. The iconic photograph immortalizes the essence of this heroic act, preserving the memory of those involved for generations to come.