The first time Dominique Williams nearly choked to death, she swallowed a mouthful of water in the deep end of a pool when she was 6 years old. Her mother saved her life.

Earlier this month, the Litchfield sixth-grader stopped breathing and slumped in her seat at a cafeteria table.

She was enjoying a strawberry parfait with chunks of granola two weeks ago during lunch when a friend jokingly highlighted another friend’s unfortunately frizzy hair day. Dominique bowled over with laughter like she always does.

Her next memory, after minutes of consciousness lost to panic, is being helped to her feet by someone. She couldn’t remember who.

“It was me, honey. You were too scared to remember,” said custodian David Dyer, a 19-year Akron Public Schools employee.

Dyer, the school’s “superhero,” sat down with Dominique on Friday to talk about the experience.

Dyer raced over to help the girl after a security guard noticed the 12-year-old in distress and waved to the teacher on duty, who also ran over to help.

Dyer said he didn’t need an invitation.

“Being a parent myself, it was like a sixth sense. I just reacted,” he said.

He lifted the girl onto her feet and administered the Heimlich maneuver until the granola dislodged from her throat. Then he reassured her friends, who went from boisterous banter to silent shock, that Dominique would be all right.

When a health aide told Dyer the girl would be fine, he too relaxed.

Today, Dominique still goes for the parfait. Her friends intently watch as she eats, the memory vivid. Dyer picks Dominique out of the lunch crowd when he passes through, “kind of hovering like a nervous dad would.”

He’s just happy he was in “the right place at the right time,” he said of saving the polite young woman.

“I just feel relieved that I’m still alive,” Dominique said.

“God still has a purpose for you,” Dyer told her.

Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or