I was young. I know I was young because I was at the Virginia Beach Pier with my friend and her family. Briefly, I was born in Virginia Beach and moved down to sunny Florida when I was almost 11. So at this time of the beach I could have been anywhere from 7-10 years old. I don’t remember.
My friend and I were on our tip-toes to keep our head above the water, I must have been younger than 10 when I think about it because we both had those arm floating devices. Floaties, I guess? I don’t know what they’re called. We were tiny little things anyway. Well her mom and dad were out away talking with another couple in the water.
Suddenly my friend slips under the water and I start screaming as I look for her. Her head pops up and she’s a little further from me than she was so I start going toward her and all of a sudden I’m pulled under water, too. Next thing I know is I feel an arm grab my torso and I am being lifted and pulled toward the shore. Heather’s mom had grabbed us both, one in each arm and got us to the sand out of the water. Heather and I were both spitting out water and when able to breathe, coughing like crazy.
That was one of the scariest moments of my life and the reason behind my fear of drowning. Had her mom not noticed us going under, we could have died. We had gotten caught in what is called an undertow or riptide depending on if you live on the east or west coast. The only things we knew about them were if someone gets caught, don’t go after them because you’ll get caught too and will be of no help and I think it used to be you were told to swim parallel to the shore to get out of them. We were kids so we unfortunately didn’t know what it was. When I first stepped into it to reach Heather all I remember was it was really cold and it felt like a hole where the sand used to be and I was getting sucked down into it. I guess unless you’re a veteran to the beach and/or a surfer you know what it is and to relax through it until it relinquishes and you can swim to shore. When I was sucked into the current, I didn’t know up from down. All I knew was that I was drowning and so was Heather and if it weren’t for her mom to come charging toward us like a mother bear, I don’t think we would have made it. When we got to the shore we were completely exhausted and limp. We had been doing the opposite of relaxing, we were fighting.
I’ve lived within 5 to 20 minutes from a beach the majority of my life. I can recall only a couple of times in FL where I have gone up to my shoulders in the water and it was usually because a group of my friends were going in. I hate the beach. The only time I don’t hate the beach is at night because when I’m angry I drive to it and it calms me. No one is there, it’s quiet and on the rare cool nights we have during the year, it’s the best. If I can avoid going to the beach during the day, I will. I hate sunning or tanning or whatever it is called. I have fair skin and the sun on my skin feels scorching even if I’m not getting sun burned yet. When I was a kid, before that incident, I loved the beach. And I think I can relate a lot of fears I have currently to that day; drowning, not being able to see what’s around me in the water (in a bubble bath I have to be able to see the drain), and holes (I may make a post of my irrational fear of holes in the future). I hate the beach, but I would never want to live away from it.
Heather’s mom was amazing that day. She was always a wonderful woman always, but that day she was my real life hero and I will never forget that.