Tuesday, July 6, 2010

not waving

The new captain jumped from the cockpit, fully dressed, and sprinted through the water. A former lifeguard, he kept his eyes on his victim as he headed straight for the owners who were swimming between their anchored sportfisher and the beach. “I think he thinks you’re drowning,” the husband said to his wife. They had been splashing each other and she had screamed but now they were just standing, neck-deep on the sand bar. “We’re fine, what is he doing?” she asked, a little annoyed. “We’re fine!” the husband yelled, waving him off, but his captain kept swimming hard. ”Move!” he barked as he sprinted between the stunned owners. Directly behind them, not ten feet away, their nine-year-old daughter was drowning. Safely above the surface in the arms of the captain, she burst into tears, “Daddy!”

How did this captain know, from fifty feet away, what the father couldn’t recognize from just ten? Drowning is not the violent, splashing, call for help that most people expect. The captain was trained to recognize drowning by experts and years of experience. The father, on the other hand, had learned what drowning looks like by watching television. If you spend time on or near the water (hint: that’s all of us) then you should make sure that you and your crew knows what to look for whenever people enter the water. Until she cried a tearful, “Daddy,” she hadn’t made a sound. As a former Coast Guard rescue swimmer, I wasn’t surprised at all by this story. Drowning is almost always a deceptively quiet event. The waving, splashing, and yelling that dramatic conditioning (television) prepares us to look for, is rarely seen in real life.

Drowning Kid? Not Likely, g.captain.com, ht janet reid


leah said...

A friend sent this to me this morning on facebook. I filed it under things that scare the crap out of me now that I'm a mom.

Helen DeWitt said...

Looking on the bright side, the number of children who drowned is actually very small.

My father taught my sister and me how to dive into waves at Daytona Beach. My mother later took us to the beach in Rio, which had much bigger waves. She would see these tiny children (10, 7) disappearing into giant waves the way our Dad taught us to . . . Maybe take Harvey surfing? You know it makes sense.