For the first 11 years of my life, I was born and raised in Cuba. Because Cuba is an island, going to the beach was a commonplace thing. One day, my mom, stepfather, aunt, uncle, two cousins, myself and probably other people I can’t remember, went to a beach near Havana.
As the adults were tanning or drinking, or both, me and my cousins decided to go to the water. I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but I was probably around 6 or 7. My cousins were around the same age. The adults told us to be careful and to not go too far in and we followed their advice. But as I played being a shark in pursuit of my two cousins, there was a sudden shift in the sands beneath us. We were all drowning.
I clearly remember struggling for air. At that moment, survival instinct kicked in and I remember grabbing and pulling and my cousins doing the same. I remember my cousin Danay just laying on the ocean floor, immobile, while my cousin Yinet tried using her as a pedestal. We were desperate. We were dying. Our brief lives were being extinguished. Taking a cue from my cousin Yinet, I stepped on my poor cousin Danay and managed to emerge once in order to scream, “Mama!”
The next thing I remember, all three of us are being carried to shore by my stepdad. Fresh air entered our lungs. The adults later told us that when they heard my scream, they spotted me and Yinet struggling to survive. No one could see Danay. They thought she was somewhere else on the beach, making sand castles. To my stepdad’s surprise, when he grabbed me and Yinent, he also grabbed Danay. She was the worse one in the group, but fortunately she survived.
This is one of those instances in my life where I know that God was looking over me. Because of His providence, I was able to quickly react and scream for help.
My family was surprised that the other people in the ocean around us didn’t notice that we were drowning. There was a man 10 feet from us and he didn’t even notice. And here’s the thing, most people don’t recognize a drowning victim.
According to a Wikipedia entry:
“To an untrained observer, it may not be obvious that a drowning person is in distress – they may appear to be swimming safely while within 20–60 seconds of sinking under the surface. Drowning victims generally show no visible panic in their movements, because they quickly become incapable of making noticeable gestures or calling for help. They cannot kick their feet, nor swim to a rescuer, nor grasp a rope or other rescue equipment. They may be misunderstood as “playing in the water” by those unfamiliar with drowning, and other swimmers just meters away may not realize that an emergency is occurring.”
I was able to accomplish something that went against my body’s own instinct. And I give the credit to my God, who has always been watching over me. Needless to say, after nearly drowning, I was traumatized for a while. I didn’t want to go anywhere near the ocean. Eventually, I faced my fears and became a better swimmer. And that’s something I learned from this experience, while our fear may be a natural result of a tragic event, we must overcome it. We have to get in the water again.