Changed lives forever…
Although I could not pick the face out of a crowd, the voice I had come to recognize. She called for Spencer County, Ky rescuers to respond to a possible drowning and where. The voices interacted over the radio in a calm and professional manner as each unit responded and headed to the scene. The voices slow, intentional, while the sirens – which could be heard from inside – told a different tale, one of urgency.
While many, including myself, were waiting for the clock to strike five so we could head home, wherever that might be, and start the ever important weekend off with our family and friends; a young man lost his life in a no-swimming area near Possum Ridge boat dock at Taylorsville Lake.
The young man and a couple friends were doing as hundreds of folks do; they were fishing at Taylorsville Lake.
I heard the call and decided without much thought really, that I would head in that direction. I don’t know what I expected to see, to be honest it never really occurred to me that lives were about to change forever.
Upon my arrival, I parked a little ways from the rescue vehicles; I didn’t want to get in the way. Still not really having any idea what I was about to see, I unpacked my camera, attached the telephoto lens and began my climb through the trees down to the rescue site. Telling myself, I’m a journalist and this is what we do, climb through trees down a steep hill. I passed some people sitting here and there quietly watching as the workers brought down their equipment. I wondered if they knew something I didn’t, figured they must, why else would they be there – watching.
My adrenaline was pumping and to say I was somewhat naive may be an understatement; it still never occurred to me what was going to happen.
I recognized the solemn and serious faces of the recovery team, I had seen some of those faces collecting donations at the stop lights in town during the WHAS Crusade for Children. I had laughed with them and taken photos of them. Among the trees I saw them busily working, no smiles now, just a group of men trying to do their best, remembering every thing they had been taught during all their training hours.
Everyone knew it was a recovery mission. But the urgency of the situation never faltered, it was a quiet scene. I listened as Fire Chief Nathan Nation gave directions and orders and as they were quickly followed, never missing a beat, I felt secure with these people. I could feel their own need to get this young man out and to is family as quickly as possible.
I realized my hands were shaking a little, but didn’t give it much more thought. I am a journalist, this is what we do. When I stopped snapping photos for a moment, I saw more people had come down into the trees and were sitting on rocks of this beautiful and serene spot. Besides the low murmurs of the team and the occasional sound of air bubbles on the waters surface from the breathing apparatus of the diver below, the quiet was the loudest sound to be heard.
The men on the bank held a rope, each with a life preserver on in case there would be a need for them to enter the water; I had a feeling there would be no hesitation if that were to become necessary. They were there for each other, taking care and watching over each other. The rope held at one end on land in the hands of a trusted brother, the other end disappeared in the water, holding on to a diver doing his best to locate the irreplaceable.
I was taking photos, clicking non-stop and peering through the lens when the inevitable happened.
The men on the bank and the divers in the water, struggling a bit, while handling the young victim so gently and respectfully.
The rescuers knew what they were there for, knew this was the hardest part of their jobs and they did their jobs above and beyond. I wish the family of this young man could know he was treated with the most care and respect. Even though he was not from this area, a really good chance no one knew him or his face, he was treated in those moments as anyone would want a family member to be treated.
I climbed back up to the clearing; I did not want to be in the way. I watched as several of the rescuers – some who had been in the water, some not, but all affected the same way – loaded him in to the back of a waiting ambulance. The men stood back, watched as the ambulance door closed and took off lights and sirens going. I wondered for a second about that, why did they go so fast, lights and sirens blaring when they knew the young man was gone?
Having thought about little else over the weekend, I have decided that although it is probably just the way it is done, I also think they were in a hurry to get him to his family.
Lives changed forever…
The lives of his wife carrying their unborn child, his other child who expected to see him walk through the door later that day. Their lives would never be the same.
I don’t think my life will ever be the same. I became a very small part of the last moments of this young mans existence, everyone there did. His life was gone, his soul had moved on someplace better I hope, but it still wasn’t completely over till he was with his family.
I went to my car, mind reeling over what I had seen. Sure, I had watched “Law and Order,” seen many rescue and recovery scenes on the nightly news. But never had I seen this before.
There were so many emotions going through me, so many thoughts. What about his family? I felt guilty because I knew he was gone before his wife, child and mother knew. How many times have I told my teenage son not to go in the water when he was going to a nearby lake with his friends?
This man was a husband, a father, a son, so many other things; and part of me was ashamed of feeling relief that he was not someone I knew, and in turn part of me felt guilty for that. But most of what I felt was a deep sadness and sense of loss for this young man and his family.
I realized I was saying the “Our Father,” aloud, praying to myself while I was driving. My face was wet with tears for someone I did not know? I must be crazy. I wanted to talk to my kids, to my mom and sisters, my boyfriend and close friends to make sure everyone was okay. I wanted to hug someone. I felt so bad for these people I did not know and would never know. I could not explain this hurt and was afraid of what people would think of me if I tried.
If I stopped being a journalist today, chances are I wouldn’t see this same situation again, hopefully. But, the volunteer fire fighters and rescuers I saw that day, choose to do it every day. The chance they may have to face this same situation or others potentially as bad or worse, does not keep them from showing up.
The responsibility fire fighters take on each and every day is hard to fathom. It takes a special kind of person to run in to a burning building, or in this case jump in to a no-swimming area. It seems to me that much of what keeps these folks going is their sense of security and trust in one another. I didn’t ask them about that, it is just what I saw.
I wanted folks to know, in case they don’t, and to be as proud as I find myself now.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of this man, and to those that worked to get him home.
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