This classic Pulitzer-winning photograph was captured by Rocco Morabito in 1967. Dubbed as “The Kiss Of Life,” the backstory of the image is terrifying.
The photo shows a utility worker named J.D. Thompson giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to revive his co-worker Randall G. Champion after he went unconscious following contact with a voltage line. They were doing routine maintenance when Champion brushed one of the low voltage lines at the top of the utility pole. His safety harness prevented a fall, and Thompson, who had been ascending below him, quickly reached him and tried to save his partner. He continued breathing into Champion’s lungs until he felt a slight pulse. He unbuckled his harness and descended with him on his shoulder. Champion was revived by the time the paramedics arrived, and eventually made a full recovery.
Champion not only survived the ordeal thanks to Thompson, but he lived for another 35 years. He died in 2002 at the age of 64. Thompson is still alive today. Their incredible story of survival was immortalized by the photographer Rocco Morabito.
Rocco Morabito was driving on West 26th Street in July 1967 on an assignment when the incident happened. He saw Champion dangling from the pole and he immediately called an ambulance and grabbed his camera.
“I passed these men working and went on to my assignment”, says Morabito. “I took eight pictures at the strike. I thought I’d go back and see if I could rind another picture”. But when Morabito gets back to the linemen, “I heard screaming. I looked up and I saw this man hanging down. Oh my God. I didn’t know what to do. I took a picture right quick. J.D. Thompson was running toward the pole. I went to my car and called an ambulance. I got back to the pole and J.D. was breathing into Champion. I backed off, way off until I hit a house and I couldn’t go any farther. I took another picture. Then I heard Thompson shouting down: He’s breathing!”.
Rocco Morabito’s powerful photo of the incident won the 1968 Pulitzer Prize. The “The Kiss of Life” photo was published in newspapers around the world. Born in Port Chester, New York, Morabito started working as a newsboy at the age of 10, selling papers. He served in World War II in the Air Force as a ball-turret gunner on a B-17. He returned to the Jacksonville Journal after the war and started his photography career. He worked for the Journal for 42 years, 33 of them as a photographer. Morabito died on April 5, 2009.