When his neighbors spotted him in the pool without his life jacket and without his parents, 2-year-old Max Woods was thrashing in the water and headed toward the deep end.
Pamela Boyle dropped a bowl she had been holding, and started screaming, "Oh my God! Go get him!"
Patrick Boyle hopped over the fence, rushed through the gate to his neighbor's pool and jumped in with his clothes on to grab the toddler - just in time.
The rescue earned Patrick a hero pin yesterday from Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. The quick thinking and bravery would be extraordinary in anyone, Smith noted.
But the thing about Patrick is that he's 10 years old.
"There aren't words," said a still-emotional Jennifer Woods, Max's mother, during the ceremony yesterday in Towson. "He was our guardian angel."
Patrick wasn't supposed to be swimming that June day because he had an ear infection. But he was outside his Parkville home, with his 9-year-old brother, Sean, and 7-year-old sister, Mikayla, who were swimming in their above-ground pool, which gives them a view of the neighbor's in-ground pool.
Sean first noticed Max in the pool, without his parents, and began yelling to his mother. But Patrick had hopped the fence by the time Pamela Boyle got out of the house, screaming, "Get Maxie!"
She ran to the front of the Woodses' house, where Max's father, Patrick Woods, was mowing the lawn. He raced to the pool, also jumping in with his clothes on. His son was gasping for air, but was safe on Patrick's shoulder.
Jennifer Woods was coming out of the house by then. She knew Max was outside while she finished getting her 4-year-old daughter, Ava, ready for the pool. But she assumed the little boy was fine for those two minutes because they have a latched fence around the pool. She had no idea it had been left open.
"They were all hysterical crying," said Patrick. His mother. Max's mother and father. Max.
"I was nervous to see if I got there in time," said Patrick, who is about to start fifth grade at Villa Cresta Elementary School in Parkville. "We were so happy to see him again."
Max, a cherub-cheeked redhead, was shaken and upset. But now he doesn't remember the near-drowning, his mother said.
"I felt like the worst parent in the world," said Jennifer Woods.
The family has since installed a pool alarm and extra locks on the gate, she said. And Max has learned he can't go into the fenced pool area without his vest on.
"We assumed, incorrectly, that the lock and gate were enough, and it wasn't," Jennifer Woods said.
The families celebrated Max's third birthday this month with a pool party, the irony lost on no one.
"I look at Patrick differently now," said Jennifer Woods. "I look at my son differently."
With the room filled with television crews and county officials, Patrick, who takes Irish dance lessons with his sister, took the opportunity to perform.
But, he said later, "It shouldn't all be about me. We wouldn't all be smiling if Max weren't here."