Boy Directs Own Rescue

June 20, 1908


When playing with friends, a 12 year old boy gets stuck in a mountain-top tunnel and confidently directs a fireman on how to properly rescue him.


New York.--- Nicholas Buckstein, 12 years old, owes his life as much to his own coolness as to the efforts of firemen who dug him out of a small tunnel in a cliff 40 feet above One Hundred and Fifty-second street, in which he was pinned by a four-ton boulder. Buckstein and other boys made a playground of what they called McComb’s mountain, a rocky cliff in West One Hundred and Fifty-second street, between Seventh avenue and McComb’s Dam road. Here the rock rises at an angle of approximately 60 degrees from the street, and on the summit the boys built stone forts. Recently they decided to become cave dwellers in a gravel pocket 40 feet about the street they started to tunnel. Buckstein resumed work as soon as school was out, and was busy five feet from the mouth of the tunnel when John Scanlon noticed a four-ton rock that was above the tunnel was sinking. He yelled to Buckstein to come out, but his companion was slow in starting, and the boulder settled, pinning him upon his back and resting across his feet and right arm. Immediately the boys began to call for help, and at the foot of the cliff a crowd assembled, including the imprisoned boy’s mother, who became hysterical. After various plans of rescue had been discussed the fire department was summoned. Men of truck 28, under Acting Battalion Chief Tonvey, found it difficult to remove the rock, because the steepness of the cliff gave them small chance for a foothold. Steel bars were placed under the boulders, ropes attached and orders were about to be given to haul away when the lad yelled to Tonvey: “I am on my back with my feet and right arm caught. If you move the rock to the left I can get out. If you move it the other way it will smash me all up.” Tonvey followed the boy’s directions and when the rock was lifted four inches the boy scrambled out. Then investigation showed that had his directions not been followed he would have been killed in the rescue.
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Emma Alvarez




“Boy Directs Own Rescue,” Black Virginia: The Richmond Planet, 1894-1909, accessed January 30, 2023,