The late afternoon sun danced across the water of the East End Lagoon. A six year old boy was crabbing in the shallow pool on the side of the road. As he walked back and forth his family fished, hung out, and enjoyed the beautiful Saturday afternoon. An occasional car crossed the bridge above the pool, temporarily drowning out the sounds of birds, lapping water, and the light breeze caressing the marsh grasses.
A gently current caused by an outgoing tide flowed through the pool. The lagoon emptied slowly into the pool through a large pipe under the bridge and exited into the ship channel through a set of 5 smaller pipes. The boy wandered close to one of these smaller pipes.
All that water has to get through pipes only about 3 feet in diameter. Near the pipes the gentle current turned into a jet of unrelenting force. The boy was sucked in.
The boy’s mother screamed as she saw him pulled under the water and into the dark pipe.
Though water has a life of its own, it follows set rules. It shows neither malice nor mercy. It can have a tremendous effect on its environment. Where it leaves this particular pipe it scours out the sand bottom leaving an area that is deep and dangerous with strong currents. A number of people, many of them children, have lost their lives through the years at this exact spot.
The woman saw her son’s little body as it spat from the tunnel on the other side. With superhuman quickness she jumped in where the current flowed out and managed to swim over and grab him before he succumbed to the force of the water, like so many before him. She towed him around the source of the current to the rock wall. Pushing him to safety she slipped back onto the rocks, breaking her ankle and sustaining a number of cuts and abrasions. But she didn’t stop until he was safely on the ledge with other family members.
This is a story of heroism and more than a little bit of luck. We are so relieved for this family that they all returned home with only minor injuries and a story that will no doubt be told and retold for years to come. But it’s also a story of personal responsibility.
In a developed country like the USA, we are fortunate to have layers of protection, even to a certain extent in the natural environment. Because of the history of this area, the Beach Patrol maintains quite a number of safety signs warning of the dangers. We make frequent passes enforcing the rules that prevent swimming in the ship channel and in this pool. But with the resources we have and 33 miles of beach to protect we can’t be everywhere all the time. Nor can our public safety partners.
Guards and signs are critical, but you are the most important and effective layer of protection.