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They Don’t Call Them Red Flags for Nothing!!!

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During the period from 2010 thru 2012 I was fortunate enough to be called to work in the BP Oil Spill recovery in the Gulf.  My final position during that time was a safety rep in Ft. Morgan Beach, Alabama; a very nice gig if you can land it.  There were five or six person crews cleaning up the tar balls on the beach between the hours of 6:00 am and noon Monday – Friday.  It was my job to watch weather conditions and procedures to ensure the safety of the workers.

On this one particular day – business as usual – cleaning is going on with several crews spread out over the Ft. Morgan beach area.  One particular crew came upon a very distressed mother pointing at the water.  Her daughter (approximate age 10) had gone out in the water and been pulled by the rip tide.  Now, rip tides are a tricky monster to maneuver and if you are unfamiliar with how to proceed you are sure to wear yourself out trying to get back to shore.  (The trick is to swim along the shoreline and gradually get closer to shore.  Do not try to swim directly back to shore…. that’s what pulls you out and under).  Our crew members are instructed specifically to NOT function as a rescue as that is not our role.  Rather, summon help if someone needs it.  However, the situation was clearly urgent and one member of the team (a former Navy seaman) ran into the water without a moment’s hesitation.  He swam to the girl and despite her best effort to fight him as well as the current, he managed to bring her back to safety.  This was not done, sadly, without having put himself at risk.  Rescue squads summoned for the girl also worked on him as his heart rate had risen to over 200 beats per minute.  The girl was assisted and released.  The rescuer was taken to the hospital.

Upon hearing the news of the rescue, the seaman’s wife was beside herself with fear and stated, “How could you do this?  Think of our children.”  He replied, “I did.  All I thought of was – that could be my child out there.”  He was a hero!

Two things happened after that.  The first was the individual upon returning to work after the incident was given a reprimand for acting outside his authority by saving the girl; something that made my head explode having to even be involved in that conversation.  The second was seeing that same girl back in the water way past where she would be considered safe and that same mom sitting on the shore watching her.  I approached the mother and asked, “Isn’t your daughter the girl that our worker rescued two days ago?  Isn’t it still “Rip Tide” with the red flags posted everywhere for you to see?  What are you thinking?”  The woman looked at me with a helpless shrug and said, “She won’t listen to me.”

Here’s my tip for all of you wonderful families that are about to venture out on your well-deserved and long awaited family vacations:  You, the parent, are in charge.  Be aware of your surroundings and teach your children how to keep themselves safe.  Observe the warnings given and heed them.  It’s not only your child you are protecting.  It is the head of another family who will risk it all to save them should they find themselves in harms’ way.

Give me that first day of summer R-O-A-R!!!!!

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2 Comments

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    • the Roaring Ellie on December 21, 2019 at 2:54 pm

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