When the Italian luxury ship, Costa Concordia, hit a large rock formation that tore its bottom and caused the ship to list onto its side I was instantaneously drawn back to the summer I turned six.
My parents, younger brother and I were experiencing a hot, sunny afternoon at an upstate New York creek. We set out early in the morning, and my father stopped at a gas station to fill the inner tube with air. It would be my first experience using an inner tube in the water. All the kids were using them: they floated on them, they climbed inside and kicked their feet. They were swimming without knowing how to swim, using the support of the tube.
It was a happy day; we were laughing, splashing and being silly. I thought all was going “swimmingly” as the current carried me deeper into the creek, into deep water.
The sides of the tube were slippery, and I slid down into the water. I hurtled downward without any control, until my feet felt the muddy bottom of the creek. As they touched the mud I used it as a spring board to push myself back up to the top. There I could gasp a fresh breath of air before being pulled down to the bottom again.
I was such a shy child that I didn’t even scream out for help.
This pattern continued a few times and I was becoming tired and frightened. Suddenly one woman in a group of chatting adults noticed me and asked, “Are you alright?” She reached over and pulled me up to the top, while she and her husband lifted me onto the shore. A flurry of action followed, people shouting all at once, my parents running to me.
That’s all I remember: slipping out of the tube, being sucked down into the depths of the creek, pushing up to the top, and a kind woman helping me stay on top.