"Dad!" yelled my 12 year old daughter as we were all sitting on the beach drying off.
We had just come in from swimming in the ocean, and were sitting on towels. In an uncanny coincidence I had just finished lecturing my 9 year old daredevil son on how it was okay to body surf; but to stop diving into the shallow waves because he might break his neck.
My daughter screamed out to direct my attention to the water. I turned my head and saw two people laying a teenage boy down at the edge of the ocean and kneeling over him. They appeared to have just dragged him in from the water. Seaview, the town right next to Ocean Beach on Fire Island, doesn't have lifeguards. I wasn't sure what had happened or what was going on and I just looked on like everyone else. The boy lay still and they were shaking him. After a few seconds he started arching, and writhing; clearly he was in distress. It was no sooner than he started moving that a huge wave crashed on all three of them. I got frustrated and couldn't help myself.
"Get him out of the water!" I yelled out.
They started to pick him up and move him, but not fast enough; another wave crashed on them as they struggled. One of them doing the lifting was an overweight man around 50 years old, and the other was around 20. I sprinted over as another wave came on top of them, and we lifted and dragged him away from the water where the sand was dry. He wasn't breathing.
"Call 911!", I yelled to the crowd.
I'm thinking to myself holy shit this kid is a baby! He looked about 16 years old. Suddenly he started gasping. I immediately turned him on his side and pressured his belly, attempting to push any water out.
"Are you his father?", I asked the oldest of the two, who looked to be around 50.
"Yes. He got crushed by a wave, and didn't come up. He must have swallowed water."
Now my wife Nicole is standing behind me yelling at me "Ben he's turning grey!"
I'm kneeling behind the boy, and he is writhing in my arms. I have an open hand on his back to keep him on his side, and my palm is on his belly. He is breathing, but gasping for air in a weird way I've never seen before. His eyes roll back in his head and all I see is the whites. I want to cry, but I have a good poker face. I'm in complete control. I think to myself oh my god please don't die! He is so young. I've never done this shit before. I can see the bloodshot whites of his eyes, and his mouth making motions like a struggling fish out of water would. I'm prepared to do CPR and rescue breathing if necessary. I put my face close to his ear, and encourage him.
"You're going to be okay buddy, just breathe! Relax, it's going to be okay, you're going to be fine, just breathe!"
The dad chimes in.
"Come on Dan, fight, you can do it, you're gonna be okay!"
It works. The boy seems to calm down. His pupils roll into place like a slot machine. His breaths are shallow, and irregular but he's breathing. He is still struggling. He is incohorent and looks up at me like who the fuck is this?
"It's okay just relax, you're going to be fine", I keep repeating.
With that he spits up a bunch of blood. Oh my god, I'm shitting bricks. I can't make sense of the blood.
"Shit, he's bleeding", I say.
"It looks like he bit his tongue, it's not coming from inside of him", says the father.
The boy is breathing a little better now, but he still looks bluish grey.
"Do you want to sit up?" asks his older brother who is on the other side of him.
I turn him onto his back where my hand is, and I push him up. This kid's hamstrings are tight, I'm thinking to myself. It takes a lot of pressure on his back to keep him upright. The boy's brother assists me with a hand on his back and proceeds to ask him if he knows where he is. He answers correctly. He then asks him what his name is. He answers correctly. I'm so happy now. I tell the boy's father that regardless of what happens he needs to take him to the hospital to get checked out. I tell him I've heard of possible complications in revived drowning victims up to 12 hours later.
The police arrive with an oxygen tank. They put an oxygen mask on him and he sits there trying to gain some regularity to his breathing. I look behind me and I see a small boy very close. He appears to be all of 8 years old, and has been quietly watching the whole event transpire from the beginning.
As the boy breathes the oxygen, all seems okay. His older brother is on the other side of him across from me, and his father is at his feet. With my hand still on the boy's back, I look across at his brother who looks at me and nods.
I ask him. "Are you okay now? Everything good?"
"Yes, thank you so much" he says, his eyes watering.
His father thanks me profusely. The police have everything under control. I pat the boy breathing oxygen on his shoulder and tell him good job, and I tell him again he's going to be fine. Nicole is still standing behind me and reiterates to the father the importance of taking the boy to the hospital to get checked out.
I walk about 20 feet back to where we were sitting, and my daughter Milan (12), and my sons PJ(9) and Sully(6) are standing there waiting. They seem mortified, hence they didn't leave where we were sitting when this all went down.
"Daddy what did you do? What happened?" asks Sully.
"Dad.............Dad.....", nudged PJ.
"I was trying to help him", I answered.
"Dad, you saved that boy's life! You should feel good!, said Milan.
I smiled and we left the beach. They wouldn't stop about it. They were still talking about it as we walked up the wooden steps off the beach. We had rented bikes for the day and I began unlocking them from the bike rack. As I was doing so, that little boy from the beach boy who was watching us the whole time approached us. He clumsily pulled at his oversize tricycle that was in the rack next to ours. Now Sully and PJ are arguing over who drank all the gatorade as I'm bent over frustrated; trying to unwrap the cable lock routed through all of our bikes. I look up as the kid on the tricycle is riding by, and he says something.
"What did he say?", I ask Milan who was closer to him.
"Thanks for saving my brother", she says.
"Really?", I ask.
"Yeah dad, that was his brother".
I felt shaken, but euphoric afterwards. I was happy to have helped that kid, and grateful that my own children were able to witness so many life lessons in all of about 15 minutes. I was reminded of why in my earlier years I toyed with the idea of becoming a NYC fireman or a doctor. I can't stand the sight of blood, and there were other reasons why I never pursued those paths in life; but I suppose this feeling is what drives people in those careers.
We had a great trip to Fire Island. I cherish spending time with my family.