New York, USA
I remember going to lake Erie with my family every summer. But due to a near-drowning experience when I was three years old, I was afraid to swim. I would not go underwater at all. When we got to the lake, my family would all jump into the water and swim far out to a sandbar. I was always left behind.
Sure, I went into the water to cool off but I never went out further than my shoulders. And I would just stand in the water — not very fun.
One day I was out in the water by myself to cool off from the heat. I heard a small voice, calling out, “Help!” I didn’t believe it at first. Perhaps I’d imagined it. I turned, and saw a boy’s head emerge from under the waves.
He cried out again before going under. The undertow of the lake must have gotten him and he couldn’t swim! I quickly looked around to see if anyone else had seen this boy but we were all alone.
I began to walk after him. I walked as fast as I could after this boy. The next time his head emerged, I told him that I was on my way to get him. I followed him for what seemed like forever. The water got deeper and deeper. It was up to my neck now.
I tried to call out to my family. I could see them on the sandbar. The water was up to my chin. I was getting really worried that I would not be able to help him. My family could not hear my cries.
I reached out for the boy. Missed! He was just out of reach! I tipped my head back. The water covered my ears. I made one final, desperate lunge. “Gotcha!” I said as I grabbed hold of his leg. I turned with him in my arms and began the slow walk back to shore.
Neither of us said much. The boy coughed a few times but was OK. I carried him until the water was down below my knees. He told me I could put him down. He ran off towards his family.
I began to think about what had just happened. If I had been able to swim, I could have helped him a lot sooner. And what if I had been in that situation, who could have helped me? There was a lesson in the experience.
By the next summer, I had taken the initiative to learn how to swim at my local indoor public pool. Every time I’m in the water, I remember him. I may have helped the boy that day at the lake, but he saved me by making me learn how to swim.