Tuesday, April 17, 2007

How to Save a Life

So in the last post, I hopefully intrigued you about what happened at the beach. Well, the basic thing is that Amy & I saved the boy in the above picture from drowning. For more details, keep reading.

Amy and I were taking turns getting our feet wet in the water and staying up on the beach guarding our bags. Amy was playing with a group of kids, running out fairly far down towards the water and then quickly dashing back when the wave rolled in. She came up to me and commented on how the undertow was deceptively strong and that those kids had better be careful, especially since their parents were nowhere in sight. "Don't worry." I joked, "I'll jump in after them if something happens."

I wanted to get my feet one more time before we left so I headed down the beach. All of a sudden I heard Amy yell my name. I looked over and saw this young boy, about 5 or 6 years old, lying in the sand after being knocked over by the last wave that had came in.

I immediately ran over to him. As I got closer, I could see the panicked look on his face and hear him crying screams of terror. I ran around behind him (with my back to the water) and threw my arms around him, trying to get him up on his feet and steady both of us enough to brace against the next wave which was quickly approaching.

I could tell right away that he was a dead weight. He was not one of the skinny Korean kids; I'm guessing he probably weighed about 50 pounds and was fully clothed in a thick parka like jacket which was now completely soaked. He was also scared. I could see the tears coming out of his eyes and all I could say was "It's okay" even though I knew that meant nothing to him.

I was struggling with the boy when the wave struck us. Because I was off balance, the wave easily knocked me over. Everything else from this point on becomes a blur. I don't remember how many waves hit us, I don't remember how I got turned around, I don't remember how I was able to hold onto the boy the whole time, I don't remember hearing or seeing anything. Adrenaline completely took over.

I do remember thinking up the whole time - trying to pull/push ourselves up the beach, trying to make sure that our heads were up inbetween the waves crashing over us - up, up, up. Somehow, I ended up on my back holding onto the boy next to me. I could feel the undertow of the water pulling me out even as I dug my heels into the sand and pushed down to try to stop myself from being taken out farther. But all my effort felt completely worthless. The sand was more like tiny pieces of rock and that created a quicksand effect where you sunk in faster and had more difficulty moving in it. I could feel myself slipping away, and while at the time it felt like I was sliding down so fast, I'm sure it was only a slight distance. It was at this moment that I thought, "I'm not going to be able to do this."

The next thing I know, Amy is by my side. I remember hearing her say, "We need help" and then turn to the beach and start screaming at all the Koreans just standing there. Finally, 2 guys came over and were able to grab the boy, after which I was able to get myself up.

Now my memories come back. Even though I was completely soaked from head to toe and had been complaining how cold the water was earlier when I just got my feet wet, I didn't feel cold at all. I wasn't even shivering. My heart was racing and the first thing I could say to Amy as we both just stood there panting was, "Did that really just happen?"

I remember the other people on the beach just staring at us as we stood motionless, trying to catach our breath and make sense of the whole thing. The wife of one of the men who helped us came over and put her jacket over my shoulders. Amy and I slowly started to stagger back up the beach to get our things while still being stared at. The man came over and offered to take us back to our hotel. People were still staring as we walked across the beach to the parking lot. I was staring at the sand the whole time, still in shock. A group of Korean guys in their young 20s called out to me "Good job" as I walked past. All I could think to say back was "Thank you. Kamsamnida." Amy, following behind me, had a few more choice Korean and English words for them. She told me later that she reamed them out for not helping.

The man and his wife were so kind to us. They drove us back to our hotel in their own car, despite the fact that we were both dripping wet and covered in sand. They thanked us again and again for what we had done. The wife seeming almost apolegtic that the boy's mother hadn't come over to thank us herself.

Now for the more light-hearted part of the story. Amy and I start walking up the stairs to the hotel, joking about our appearance. The ajumma (Korean woman) who ran the hotel saw us and was immediately like "Oh, you are not coming into my hotel looking like that and getting sand everywhere after I just cleaned." She shooed us back outside and around to the side of the building where she then proceeded to get a hose and hose us down head to foot before we could re-enter.

Now I was cold! That water was freezing and she had no mercy. Amy and I are both laughing hysterically now and thankfully the ajumma joined us in appreciating the absurdity of the moment. While I'm watching Amy being hosed down, I realize that the back pockets of my jeans are filled with a good inch of sand and I can feel the sand all down my shirt, all down my pants, and all down my underwear. When she turns the hose on me, I'm pulling handfuls of sand out of my pockets and dumping it on the ground. She looks at me in disbelief and then turns me around so that she can look down my pants to see all the sand herself.

Finally, she is satisfied enough to let Amy and I go back to our room. When we get there, I stood in the bathtub and stripped down, listening and watching a new batch of sand fall into the tub with each item I removed.

For the rest of the day, I couldn't stop thinking about what had happened. The whole event from the first wave to the last wave had maybe been about 2 minutes, but time meant nothing to me. I didn't actually rescue or save the boy, it was more as if I prevented him from getting pulled farther out into the water where things would have been much worse.

The situation was strange - the boy was whisked quickly away and neither Amy nor I ever saw him or his parents after we got out of the water. The beach was filled with Koreans, but either because of their lack of swimming ability or because of their unawareness/unconcern of the dangers of a young boy playing that close to the water or for someo ther reason, no one went to help the boy until after Amy made a dramatic show that finally caught someone's attention. In fact, most of them were staring at Amy and I as we left with more of a puzzled look on their faces like "Why did the crazy waigook (foreign) girls get all wet?" instead of a look of appreciation or respect for what we had just done.

The event was strange - quick, sudden, unexpected but yet foreshadowed, dangerous but fearless, physical but not emotional or mental, and thankfully a happy but yet incompletely resolved ending.


Anonymous said...

I am sooooo proud of you!

Anonymous said...

Wow! I am thankful you were able to help. It might have had a different ending if you had not been there. Take good care of my Granddaughter!