The Remarkable Story Behind a Life-Saving Kiss
The Kiss of Life is not just a photograph; it’s a powerful and emotional reminder of the fragility of life and the importance of human connection. Taken in 1967 by Rocco Morabito, it got the Pulitzer prize at the time and has made waves ever since. More than 50 years later, it still shows us the beauty of humans and their limitless strength in front of imminent danger. Let’s learn more about the story behind it and the man who managed to capture it.
The Kiss of Life, 1967, colorized
Two utility workers, J.D. Thompson and Randall G. Champion, were conducting a routine inspection of a power line in Texas when Champion accidentally touched one of the low-voltage lines at the top of the pole. Fortunately, he was wearing a safety harness that prevented him from falling, but when it happened, he stopped breathing.
Thompson quickly sprang into action and began performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on his colleague. Despite being unable to provide CPR, he continued blowing air into Champion’s lungs until he could feel a faint pulse. Seconds after the picture was taken, Thompson shouted, “He’s breathing.” He then unbuckled Champion from his safety harness and brought him down to the ground, where another worker took over and administered CPR.
The Kiss of Life, 1967, in its original black & white
Thanks to the quick and heroic efforts of Thompson and the other workers, Champion was moderately revived when the paramedics arrived. He made a full recovery and went on to live another 35 years.
Thompson was deemed a hero that day, but he doesn’t consider himself one, saying, “If there were other people there, if I hadn’t gotten there first, they would have done the exact same thing I did. It’s been done many times before — people’s lives were saved,” he said. “But there were no pictures.”
Rocco Morabito holding his award-winning photograph, in 1988
Journalist Rocco Morabito, working for the Jacksonville Journal, was returning from covering a railroad strike when he saw the worker dangling from the pole. He used his car radio to tell the paper to call an ambulance, and after he got the shot, he radioed again, telling them, “You may want to wait for this. I think I’ve got a pretty good one.”
The Journal pushed past the deadline that day to get Rocco’s picture in the paper, and editor Bob Pate gave it a memorable title, The Kiss of Life. Rocco’s photo ran in newspapers worldwide, winning the Pulitzer prize in 1968 — the top award in journalism, and it still lives on more than 50 years later.