Like most 7-year-olds, if Jennifer Allen even speaks to strangers, it’s little more than a whisper. But her shyness disappears when her younger sisters are in trouble.
In separate incidents Saturday, she saved her 3-year-old half sister Katalina then, later, her 1-year-old half sister Aryanna from drowning.
Spc. Michael Allen, 3rd Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, his wife Krissy and his three daughters were at a pool party in Hinesville when Jennifer showed her heroic nature. Krissy said at least 20 adults and seven or eight children were playing around the pool.
“Katalina was playing near the steps at the shallow end of the pool,” said Krissy, explaining that her stepdaughter Jennifer was in the pool holding onto a floatation device her youngest daughter Aryanna was sitting in. “Some bigger kids were splashing around near her, and I think they accidentally knocked Katalina in the water.”
When she saw what happened, Krissy said she raced to the side of the pool and jumped in, but Jennifer had already grabbed her sister from the water.
“I heard my sister crying,” Jennifer whispered. “I let go of Aryanna’s floating thingy and rushed over to where I could grab my other sister. My step-mom jumped in the pool with her clothes on and took her so I could go back to Aryanna.”
Krissy said she doesn’t recall taking her flip-flops off but said she was wearing the rest of her clothes and her glasses when she jumped in. After she had calmed down, Krissy said she returned to their Allenhurst home to change clothes.
While she was gone, Michael was near the edge of the pool watching Katalina, who was less interested in playing near the water’s edge. Jennifer and Aryanna, who was still in the float, continued playing in the pool.
Suddenly, Aryanna leaned over and the float turned upside down, again calling big sister into action.
“I reached for the float and saw she wasn’t there,” Jennifer said quietly. “I found her under the water and lifted her up before my dad had to do anything.”
Michael said both he and his first wife, Nicole Ireland, are strong swimmers, and he expects his daughters will be also be one day. He said Ireland, who now lives in Arizona, had just left Jennifer to stay the summer.
“My mom is a lifeguard, but I want to be a singer,” said Jennifer, no longer whispering.
Jennifer said she’s not afraid of the water and looks forward to learning how to swim. Katalina and Aryanna said they’re not afraid of the water either. All three girls said they’re looking forward to a family trip to the beach later this week.