They witnessed something wrong. They stepped in and put a stop to it.
Why? Because it was the right thing to do.
A video recently surfaced of an an alleged bullying incident that took place on the North Tonawanda High School football field this past Wednesday.
The video captured an attack by three 16 year old NT High School girls on a 13 year old girl.
The assault involved the three older girls, who were much bigger, tackling, punching and kicking the younger girl while she was down. Reportedly leaving her with a concussion.
The video sparked outrage across WNY. What people also slowly are becoming aware of is the fact that two NT male students – Anthony Swan and Simon Griskonis IV – were the heroes of the day as they rushed into action and put a stop to the assault.
“I feel like it was more human instinct,” said Griskonis. “Just being a decent human being and knowing right from wrong. No one should ever have to go through the stress of what happened to that poor girl.”
Both members of the Lumberjack wrestling team, Swan, a rising senior and Griskonis, a rising junior were on the football field training together when they noticed the incident and sprang into action.
“I just saw this group of girls emerge from behind the bleachers at the football field,” Swan said. “My back was turned for most of what happened. I just saw her get hit once and I turned around, and me and Simon jumped over there to help the girl who was getting hit. We helped her up and walked her out.”
Swan, who also plays football, and Griskonis are also members of the Jacks lacrosse program.
NT lax coach Matt Sledzewski said he could not be any more proud of both young men.
“I talked to Anthony today and I told him I was proud of his and Simon’s actions and that they did the right thing,” Sledzewski said. “In lacrosse we preach that everyone is equal and you don’t pick on anyone, harass and bully people. You help everybody you can. ”
Their actions were exemplary on so many levels. They didn’t look away. They didn’t stand there laughing or join in. They put a stop to it.
But Anthony and Simon don’t think they deserve praise. They did what they feel anyone should do in that situation.
In fact, both boys were very bothered by the fact that others witnessed it sooner and didn’t act to save the girl from her much bigger aggressors.
“It’s just human instinct at this point,” Swann said. “It’s the way we were brought up and raised.”
“It’s more upsetting that there were a lot of bystanders looking around. Watching and commenting and no one helped,” Griskonis said. “I just wished me and Anthony would have noticed sooner. We would have acted a lot quicker.”
Swan agreed and said even as he went home he said he wished he would have turned around sooner.
But his coaches and others have assured both boys that there is no reason for them to harbor any guilt. And that they should take pride in the example they set.
Jacks wrestling coach Wally Maziarz said he felt sick to his stomach when he watched the video.
But at the same time he was so proud of his boys and that their actions made his heart smile.
“Having those guys step up, as much as I love being a coach and having successful teams and every thing, this is what I live to coach for,” he said. “Shaping young men, young individuals into respectful people and role models for other people.”
Anthony and Simon’s actions also bring up the interesting dynamic that it wasn’t just kids who stepped up, but student-athletes.
Over the years there have been many stories about athletes in a negative light. Older players hazing younger players. Or even just the old school mentality of the dumb jocks who roam the halls preying on weaker classmates.
Maziarz said this is a case of two boys who did what was right and their actions reflect positively on the entire athletic program and the values they’ve learned at home from their parents.
“Years past you’ve heard horror stories of bullying and sports teams,” Maziarz said. “To hear something like this it’s a complete turnaround. Not only for wrestling but every sport. It’s a kudos to the coaches in their ears and their parents. Our actions and our words actually get to these kids. They actually listen and apply it, it’s amazing. It feels really good.”
Sledzewski said this could be a multi-layered lesson. Not only did Simon and Anthony show people the right way to act it also became the perfect illustration that bullying will not be tolerated.
“That’s why I sent a message out to my team saying that if you ever do anything like that and I find out you will not play for me,” Sledzewski said.” There’s no room for that on my team.”
Perhaps what speaks most to the character of Anthony Swan and Simon Griskonis IV is they didn’t know this girl.
It’s one thing to step up and protect a friend but neither boy knew her. It didn’t matter. To Swan and Griskonis it’s about following through on the anti-bullying lessons that have been stressed in schools for years now.
“Yeah I really feel like just because she was a stranger it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t step up and help,” Griskonis said. “I feel like that makes it even more important to stand up and help just because I didn’t know her.”
The boys were both deeply disturbed by the actions of the girls who perpetrated the assault. They felt it casts a poor light on the city they call home and has given people the wrong impression of North Tonawanda.
“I’ve heard a lot of talk from a lot of people saying how they’re embarrassed and they wouldn’t stand for this in NT,” Griskonis said. “That’s not what NT is about. Yes we get a bad rep because of people like this who just want to be idiots and not good human beings, but I truly feel like NT is a family and friendly place.”