Plain Dealer Staff Writer
The rims of Justine Holub’s hazel eyes were red and wet with tears as t h e 14-year-old Cleveland girl scanned the choppy waters of Lake Erie.
At least two dozen firefighters held hands forming a human chain as they waded waist deep against the crashing waves, searching the lake bed with their feet Monday afternoon.
A U.S. Coast Guard boat bobbed on the water’s turbulent surface and a Coast Guard chopper peered down from overhead.
Justine’s friend, 15-year-old Ronald Reed Jr. of Cleveland, and her boyfriend, 14-year-old Justin Mosier of Parma, were swimming in the rough waters at Edgewater Park when the undertow pulled them away from shore and under water.
The rescuers had pulled one of them out of the water. The other was still missing. One would live, one died. Through the evening there was confusion about which boy had survived.
Justine and her two friends moved away from the rescuers and the prying eyes of the TV crews and onlookers clumped on the eastern corner of the beach. She held the T-shirt Justin wore before going swimming — the blue one with “Slacker” on the chest — up to her nose. She said his smell brought him back if only in her memories.
Mutual friends introduced them about three months ago at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. They both liked the Insane Clown Posse, a rapmetal band from Detroit. She said it felt like they were a perfect match.
Getting together was hard. Justin lives in Parma and is home-schooled.
Justine is a freshman at Lincoln West High School in Cleveland. They aren’t old enough to drive. But between visits they spoke almost every night for hours on the phone. She said they never ran out of things to say.
Over the weekend, their friends on MySpace.com, an online community, decided everyone would gather Monday afternoon at Edgewater Park.
Justine was so excited she said she thought about it all day at school.
She and a friend went to the park about 3:30 p.m. One of Justin’s friends ran up to her. He said Justin and Ronald, a Lincoln West student, were swimming when the undertow pulled them away from shore 15 minutes earlier.
All Justine could do was wait. Soon it was 5 p.m.
She held Justin’s blue T-shirt as she described him, and then she accidentally slipped into past tense.
“He was, like, different than other guys,” she said. “He was just really sweet.”
She fell silent.
It was just before 5:30 p.m. He had been under more than two hours.
A firefighter approached. “They found him,” he said.
Justine’s feet sank in the sand as she tried to run toward the corner of the beach where a rescuer was making his way to shore. She could not get there fast enough.
She was still a ways away when the rescuer got into shallow water and stood, pulling a limp body from the water.
Justine turned away. She fell into the arms of her friends. And she covered her mouth with Justin’s blue shirt, breathing his smell as she cried.
The body pulled out of the water after two hours was Ronald. He was pronounced dead , a Cuyahog a County coroner’s official said.
And Justin was at MetroHealth Medical Center in critical condition.