Young Sandy at 10 Years Old
(1957) Leisure City, Florida
The Sea Can Take You Down or Bring You Fun Times
I have to go back in time. I remember , when I was a young girl growing up. Life was not always an adventure. Changing to new schools with my father’s military career was very challenging all the time. Consequently, I was left facing many of life’s greatest challenges.
My Fondest and Most Challenging Places in Life
The salt water of Miami Beach, Bay Front Park Beach, The Keys, Marco Beach, Naples,
Panama City, Mexico Beach, and an Island once called Jew Fish Creek, Key Largo, and fishing forty miles in the Gulf of Mexico. Florida’s environment taught me to respect the dangers in life near the oceans.
Life at that age was surviving storms at sea, hurricanes, and dealing with boat outboard engines breaking down at sea. There was never a dull moment in time.
Our endeavors brought us to unusual events. Life was living on the edge and making the best of life’s events. Consequently fun and safety were always needed.
13 Miles off the Shore of Miami Beach
Dad restored a 14 foot speed boat, and it had a huge hole in the front side.
He fiber-glassed the boat, consequently we were able to go fishing in the salt water.
As a family, we would go out to the coral reefs and the islands near by. We were about
13 miles off Miami Beach.
My father stopped the boat not far from the buoy markers.
I remember the water being crystal clear with six foot Barracuda
fish lying all over the top of the water. I also looked down into the
depths of the water. It appeared to be crystal clear. I could see huge
fish weighing about 400-800 hundred pounds below the boat. It was approximately
greater than 50 feet of water that we were fishing at.
Danger of a Storm and Barracuda Fish
Barracuda fish have large sharp teeth like razors. As a result,
if you are bitten by this fish, then you can lose body parts. They will
go for anything shiny that catches their attention. The public is warned about their danger.
Some people have lost an arm, or they have been attacked in head or throat.
The largest of the Barracuda fish will leap out of the water at you.
The smaller Barracuda fish carry the possible danger of food poisoning.
They have a habit of staying near the shore line, and they will eat the red algae.
Their teeth are still sharp and you can be attacked while on the beach by the
smaller size Barracuda.
On the other hand, my family and friends would go fishing and catch the large
Barracuda fish. They had to gaffe the Barracuda before bringing it into the boat.
The guys would later on fillet the fish, and we would eat them in a fish fry or put
them on the outside grill, or freeze the meat to cook later.
Caught in a Storm
Dad was having problems with his outboard boat motor.
We sat still while he worked on the motor. The sky started
to look cloudy, and the winds came up and the water came down to drench us.
A storm came from no where and the waves started to come over
the side of the boat. My little sister was sitting next to me.
I seem to remember her being about 2 years old at that time.
Mom was driving the boat, and dad was leaning over the motor
while working on it, and the motor was trying to shut down on him.
The winds and heavy rain was coming closer and closer to our boat.
Giant waves were throwing water into our boat.
As mom drove the boat, then I noticed she was about to go over the coral reefs.
I was not sure how deep they were, because you could see pink and
purple colors under our boat. I remember yelling at mom to get off
the reefs before we hit one. Coral Reefs can rip your boat apart.
Somehow in all this we got to shore and were not cap-sized. We made it back
to the shore. I was thinking all the time that we were very lucky or blessed.
Sandy, the Babysitter, and Little Baby Girl Almost Drowned
At the age of ten years old, one of the events of my life that stands
out happened with my baby sister in my arms. It reminded me how
I dealt as a child with the event of possible drowning. I kept in mind
that I had to save two lives and not just myself. This was a choice that
I made , when we almost drowned.
My sister had to be above my head, and I had to keep myself underwater
until someone could save us. It was difficult to do, because the ocean
kept trying to drag me further and further into the depth of 13 foot drop
off. The oceans currents could pull anyone under.
Where Was Mom?
Taking you back in time, life got complicated. I went to see
one of my friends and her mother. Her mother raised parakeets in her
home. Consequently, big sister Sandy decided to get a few parakeets for
free. The lady had a few more than she wanted to raise, and I thought
that my friends all would love to have one.
I wanted to do something special for my baby sister and got her
a parakeet she could watch. The bird got out of the cage,
and mom went to catch it. As a result, my mother slipped on the small
rug on top of the terrazzo floor. She received a compound fracture.
Her leg had twisted and she broke both major bones in her leg.
As a result, mother had to be sent to a Catholic hospital that
contracted with the military to handle the situation. She had to be taken
by military ambulance from Homestead to Mercy Hospital on Miami Beach.
The doctors at Mercy Hospital sent for the best surgeon
they could find to restore mom’s broken leg. At that time,
the only surgeon with that expertise was in Key West, Florida.
They flew him to Miami from Key West, and he operated on my
mom’s leg. She was in a cast for 6 months, and in the hospital for a
good two full months.
During all this time of trauma, I was expected to take care of my
baby sister after school. The next door neighbor kept her until
I came home from school. Meanwhile, my father was working on
a military base, and he had to get me to help out. I was only ten
years old, when my sister was born in 1957.
Not only did I have to take care of this little baby, but I also
had to save my mom, when she fell. It took me four hours of mom
lying in the floor, before the military got to my father. My neighbors
did not act like adults at the time. My father was not to be reached.
He was on military alert duty on the Air Force Base. It is a good possibility
that he might not have been on that base but flown to another. Alert duty
means for days you do not see your dad until the alert duty is over.
I could not accept the fact that neighbors did not want to get involved.
Consequently, I got on the phone and called the military base and would not
give up until I got the help from them. This was a total of 4 and a half hours
of trauma for mom. I put a pillow under her head, and let her know that
I was getting help. The pain was horrid. My challenge was to reach help in time,
and there was no mountain high enough that I would not climb for my mother.
All I could think of was I had to get help.
The Day We Went to Miami Beach at Mercy Hospital
The broken leg took a call from a specialist in Key West to come and
operate on my mother’s leg at Mercy Hospital on Miami Beach.
She was in the hospital for 2 months. Our mother could not be with her family,
and bored of hospital care.
Mother’s leg had even turned blackish in the process and that placed fear in my heart.
I honestly thought that I was losing my mother. I almost panicked, when my father brought
home my mother’s wedding rings and all. As a ten year old child, then I did not want to
lose my mother, and I was afraid she was not living anymore.
Mother survived this traumatic experience, and she came home to us to care for her.
Mom had always been the caretaker of her family. This time it was her family and
neighbors that came to her rescue. We had to cook, clean dishes, and be moms helper.
Our Special Trip to Miami Beach for Recreational Fun
Dad was going to take us to the ocean to help mother. Mother needed a family trip
for some sunshine and salt water air. She sat in her wheelchair with her full leg cast on,
and the sun enriched her sense of well being. We knew that was good for her. Later on,
we were going to share a picnic with everyone there. My father brought his friend, the
diver that often brought us lobsters from the ocean to cook at home.
No One Expected a Life Threatening Event
She was sitting on the beach taking it easy, while I was expected to
babysit my 6 month old sister. She had no idea what was going to take place.
Dad had his friend meet him there. The friend was a professional diver.
They decided to go out in the ocean to talk and enjoy the salt water.
I was asked to watch after my sister at the time. I had already played
with a stick drawing my name in the sand. Boredom made me walk out
to the oceans edge. I was holding my baby sister in my arms.
Then, life became a rescue event for me and my sister.
Being Pulled Under the Ocean
I saw my father and his friend standing up in the water a
distance away from the beach. I thought I could simply walk out
and join them as I always enjoyed doing. He was not standing but
treading water. My thoughts told me that he is just standing there in the water.
I was on the edge of a drop off from 4 feet to 13 feet.
The ocean’s current was pulling me under the water.
There is no way to walk out of this type of situation.
At the time, the oceans power had control of me.
The current was getting us both. I thought fast in my actions
and started praying we would get help. Big sister had to think
what to do and how to do it. I was responsible for my baby sister.
My Mind Kept Thinking
Sandy what ever you do, then you cannot turn loose of your sister.
You must put your sister before your own life. I put the thought
in my mind to push her up out of the water. The current is pulling at
my whole body. My body is underneath the ocean and on a ledge
drop-off. Pushing my sister upwards kept me focused. Her little six
month old body only submerged one time. I pushed her up as fast as I could
so that she would not swallow water and drown. Consequently, I had to
stay submerged, and it was vital that I put her life first and my life on the line.
Hope Comes From Dad and His Friend
Both men were looking toward the shoreline, and they saw what was happening.
As a result, my father’s friend steps up to the dilemma and pulls my sister up
into his arms. He quickly swims toward the shore line.
Next,my father reaches down and pulls me up out of the water. He pulled me up
by my long hair, and I was mad at him at the moment, because I thought I could
get out of that situation since they had my baby sister. My father knew that the
current was greater than my ability to swim underwater.
I realized later on that I could have caused him to drown as well, if I had not
been pulled up in a life saving manner. My sister and I were both rescued.
This is an experience you just do not forget in your life.
School curriculum should consider swimming as part of the education system.
I took swimming in the 10th and 11th grade as part of my physical education program.
Diving underwater was my second course, and my beginning course taught
me how to swim on top of the water using a variety of techniques.
Considering how easy it is to drown , then I can say as a student and
former teacher that this is important. Children fall in water ways,
fall under the ice, and sometimes get in flood zones. Our nation is flooding
in many areas due to heavy rain falls, and fires that have caused our earth to flood
areas with or without vegetation.
I hope this article makes you consider the need to put swimming
in your communities and in your education classes. It is important!