ALAMEDA -- On Father's Day, Tracey McCormick spent the day with friends, while her husband took their two children whitewater rafting.
But the Alameda resident later found herself in the water, dealing with a life-threatening situation. And her actions June 16 will be recognized in San Francisco on Wednesday, when she receives a California Emergency Medical Services Award.
"I was driving home on Hegenberger toward Bay Farm. I usually go past Doolittle. But the light was red, so I turned onto Doolittle," McCormick said. As she drove along Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline in Oakland, she saw the big rock painted like a watermelon.
"Just past it, there was a car half submerged and sinking," she explained. "I got closer, and it was hard to comprehend. I didn't believe it, but I saw hands in the back window of the car. I thought, 'Oh my God. There are people inside.' "
McCormick, who swam competitively growing up in Alameda and was in training to compete in a team triathlon event, didn't think twice about jumping into the water.
"It was instinctive," she said. "I'm more comfortable in the water than on land, in some respects."
But the talented swimmer couldn't help the four family members inside the car open a door or window to escape and knew all would be lost in a matter of seconds. As she screamed, more people came to help, including Eric Schorken, of San Leandro, a former water polo player, who went into the water to help McCormick. They both yelled that they couldn't break into the car.
Schorken's friend, Andrew Goodwin, of San Leandro, ran to get a window-shattering tool. He struck gold since Rebecca Foster, a paramedic who had stopped at the scene while on a different call, had one in her vehicle. Foster had received the tool as a gift from her husband just two weeks earlier.
"It's a miracle that the tool wasn't dropped as it traded hands. There was only about 10 percent of the car above water when we used it," McCormick said.
McCormick tried to break the back window of the car but couldn't. Without speaking, Schorken quickly took the tool, turned it over to the sharp side and successfully smashed the window of the sinking car.
The two rescuers grabbed the two children, who couldn't swim, and took them to dry land as fast as possible. The parents, who were dog paddling to keep their heads above water, were taken to shore next.
After making sure the rescued family members -- also from Alameda -- were in good hands, McCormick left the scene.
"I had to go to work at The Gap the next day," said the logistics manager for the clothing company.
Along with her unexpected turn onto Doolittle, there were many other details of the rescue story that McCormick had a hard time fully understanding later that day.
"I just couldn't believe how everything came together. I wasn't sure what to tell other people, even my family," she said.
"She saw the family members in need and called their rescue a miracle," Schorken said. "It wasn't any one person, but a team of people -- the right people at the right time with the right equipment."
Some details of the afternoon's events seem to have been forgotten, like the broken glass and gasoline in the water. But these aspects may come back to her, as she watches a show about the rescue being made by Newsmax TV, which is putting together a documentary about the 25 most-inspiring stories of 2013.
"It's an honor to be recognized with a California Emergency Medical Services Award," said McCormick, who will receive an award, along with Schorken, Goodwin and Foster, next week. "Knowing that a family of four gets to wake up and see each other every day is really joyful and truly satisfying."