Brave, hero, or just plain being absent minded, let the readers decide? The ironic thing about this horrific event is that it happened five years ago the day before Labor Day, 2008. I use to swim a lot, it’s one of my gifts, and I love it. This dreadful event occurred at a pond on the outskirts of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. The man-made pond with filtered and chlorinated water is called “Elm Creek Swimming Pond” with life guards, a concession stand, bathroom and changing shelter, umbrellas planted on the sandy beach, and a wonderful picnic area surrounding the swimming pool and beach. It closes down for the year after Labor Day.
That afternoon around 2:00 PM, the day before Labor Day, I arrived at the swimming pond and began to do my normal routine, which was to tread water and swim for about 30 minutes without touching the bottom. My work out was very intense, and I kept my body buoyant on the surface of the water for the whole time. Soon after I had arrived while treading water, I noticed three teenagers throwing a football around in the water. One of them was a young boy, or should I say young man because his structure looked like a man. He was very built with a lot of muscles, much more than the other two teenagers. In fact, he appeared to be there by himself but he connected with and was playing with the other two. The water in the pond had drop off spots which were somewhat marked by a sign. Unfortunately, the lines weren’t very clear where they began and ended because when I was walking in the water all of a sudden there would be a drop-off. The good thing is that I knew how to swim, so it was no big problem for me. I just swam to the surface.
Suddenly, I looked over toward a figure in the water, and he was jumping up and down while his hands were forcefully coming up from the splashes, but to my knowledge and to those around him, he just appeared to be playing around in the water. After a minute or so I realized he wasn’t having fun, he was drowning! The other kids close to him didn’t even notice what was going on, and they just passed him by and continued to play on their floaters. After looking around for a life guard, and not seeing one in sight, I abruptly without thinking too much except for the fact that the adrenalin was flowing rapidly through my body, I swam towards the splashing water in an effort to try and save him. The only problem was that when I got too close, he unexpectedly grabbed me hard and pulled me under the water. At that point the only thoughts that came to my mind were, “I am going to die” because he was physically very strong, panicking and fighting for his life. He wasn’t thinking about pulling me under the water, and the reality of the grueling circumstances was the probable fact that we were both going to die.
It all turned from an awful situation of a drowning boy to a horrifying state of survival for the both of us. I was able to make it to the surface; unfortunately, he again grabbed me with both his arms and pulled me under the water. In my head I was saying to myself, “I am not ready to die”! A flashback came to me of a time when I was scuba diving with a friend who is now a Diving Instructor, and we were off the Pacific Coast in Catalina, CA, and he told me, “Never go in front of a person that is panicking or drowning in the water. Always grab them from behind around the neck. If it’s too late to grab them from behind, use all your strength to push them away from you as far as possible first and then grab the drowning victim from behind or emerge to the surface for help.” As he embraced me, I felt locked down and unable to get away. He was enormously stronger than me, but my will to live overpowered his physical strength, and I used every bit of force and energy to push him away in order to save us both! I swam to the surface immediately and felt so relived to be alive. After catching my breath, I again started to scream for help to a group of men and one woman across the pond. The woman and a man swam over and tried to help the drowning boy, but he also grabbed the both of them under the water, so they to pushed him away. I was still yelling for help and exhausted! There were no Life Guards in sight, and we found out later it’s because it was the last days of the season. Finally, four very tall grown men swam over and were able to bring the boy to safety. As his relatives, native born to Africa and unable to speak English, came close to him, he sat there shaking while sitting on the course sandy beach. I repeatedly thanked those men, and they thanked me for noticing him struggling in the water, and we all went home that warm sunny day grateful for saving a life. I thought, “This boy is greatly blessed to be able to attend High School again in two days, and I was very fortunate to still be alive…” No body died that day, Thank God!
I am very much thankful to have had the good fortune to share this terrible incident through my writing, amid a very favorable outcome, with others so that people will learn from my circumstances as a swimmer. If a person goes near or in the water, they should never ever assume that it’s shallow! It’s also a great idea to learn how to swim because it’s a lot of fun and safer for everyone in the water…