If you’ll all allow me to gloat this month, I want to tell you about a very special young woman here in Vermont, and that’s my niece, Michelle Archer. You may not recognize her name, but I’m sure you’ve heard of the events of December 17 where two children fell through ice on a pond in Cambridge, VT. One child was pulled from the pond by the elderly landowner, but the second child still needed to be saved. On that day, Vermont State Trooper Michelle Archer was in the right place at the right time and went into that pond and rescued the little girl, who thereafter made a full recovery after a short stay in the hospital.
What I’m sure you haven’t heard about is that Michelle, the youngest daughter of my brother Tom and his wife, Beth, grew up in Milton, and after taking a very circuitous route after college graduation, then became a Vermont State Trooper. She is unassuming, kind and considerate, unflappable, helpful, tough, and stubborn! When she puts her mind to something, it happens. Michelle will probably kill me for telling these stories, but to prove the point of her stubbornness, when she was young, maybe 4 years old, this trait exhibited itself in numerous ways, one of which was when her grandmother would pick her up from daycare and they might stop at the grocery store for an item, Michelle would want candy and be told no, not today. Michelle would then sit in her car seat in the back seat of the car and not say one dang-blasted word to Grama on the ride from the store all the way to home. Not one! No cajoling could make her break her silence.
Another time, when she, her sister and parents were at my folks’ house for dinner and it came time to go home, even though her father would ask her/tell her/plead with her/threaten her to put her winter boots on because they had to leave, she would… take… her… own… sweet… time, whether it be 5 minutes or 15! Boy-o-boy was she stubborn.
Fast forward to today: If you google “Trooper Michelle Archer,” you will see and learn all about the rescue, but what isn’t mentioned is the fact that Michelle is barely 5 foot two inches tall and the pond where the little girl was, was 8 feet deep. You also may not see in her bodycam footage that she had the presence of mind to immediately unhook and drop her utility belt holding her gun, baton, flashlight, and who knows what all else, just before going into the 40-degree water that had thin layers of ice on it. Now, she was fully clothed in her trooper uniform, all the way down to her black boots that have got to weigh 3-4 pounds! Yet she knew she had to swim to that child and swim back to shore with her in her arms.
Michelle spent her summers growing up on the shores of Lake Champlain in Milton where our family camp is. She, being the youngest of 4 siblings at age 9, persevered to outdo them all when she got up on water skis first and skied around the lake with this big, goofy, smug look on her face. And when the time came to “put the water in” in May, she would help her dad with the chore, braving the mid 40-degree water. Just maybe that chore prepared her a little for the rescue.
Michelle’s brother has a maple grove, and she and her sisters help him place thousands of taps in the trees, so there’s always maple syrup around. Well, if you watch the video of the rescue, as Michelle reaches into the back of her cruiser for the flotation device, there sitting squarely in view is a half gallon of Vermont pure maple syrup. She is a born and bred “Vermont” state trooper.
Michelle has been called a hero, justifiably so, along with Trooper Keith Cote, who arrived on scene in time for Michelle to hand the child off to him, who then ran the child to the waiting ambulance. Their boss has recommended them for the department’s lifesaving award. Also, Michelle is now a finalist in a group of 4 for the Trooper of the Year Award from the International Association of Chiefs of Police, awarded in San Antonio, TX, on March 14. She has been interviewed on WCAX, NBC5, Fox News, Inside Edition, WVMT talk radio, along with much more press coverage on local TVs and newspapers across the country, and it’s spread online throughout the world on social media.
But Michelle is the same trooper today that she was on patrol on December 17. And she’s still that cute-as-a-button, smart, kind, considerate, humble….and, of course, stubborn kid that I’ve known all these years. She doesn’t think she’s a hero; she was just doing her job, and, as she has said, everything was aligned that day!
Many thanks to Beth Nichols and Laura Nichols for the photographs.