Last week I went to The Sailfest in New London, Connecticut. For those of you that don’t know, it is the largest fireworks display on the east coast. People sit on the piers and watch the hour long show in sync to the local radio station. It is quite the spectacle. Upwards of 30,000 people descend on the area.
The piers are surrounded by waist high metal railings. The concrete pier itself juts out about 8 inches past the railings.
Just before the fireworks started I noticed that there was people sitting on opposite side of the railing with their legs hanging over the ledge. I knew the water was deep and about a 6 foot drop from the ledge to the water. And the people. There were a lot of people. Of all ages. Elderly people. Kids. Toddlers.
I have been a certified lifeguard for 15 years.
When I saw those people sitting/standing there, my heart started racing, my mouth went dry. My mind went into overdrive, trying to figure out what I would do if one of those people fell in.
My friends not realizing how serious I was started joking and lighheartedly teasing me. They asked me if I would jump in if someone fell in. Without thinking about it I immediately replied “of course. I wouldn’t even hesitate.”
Shocked, they replied that they wouldn’t, in their minds those people were stupid enough to sit there, if they fall in its their own fault.
I told them that I wouldn’t be able to let someone drown, if I have the knowledge and capability to prevent it. If I didn’t jump in and they didn’t survive; I don’t think I would be able to forgive myself.
Then they started realizing that I was completely serious. One of my friends took notice that I was nervously pacing our small area trying to see as much of the water as I could. I could feel my heart beating like I was on the treamill and my muscles twitching, ready to react. My shoes and socks were off and safely under my chair. My phone and wallet were in my bag. Then the fireworks started and I found myself unable to enjoy them because I kept scanning for trouble.
I never had to jump into that water, thankfully.
But I keep replaying in my head how it would have played it out even now four days later. How would I have gotten the person out? What would I do if there was more than 1 person? Would anyone else jump in to help me? What if someone fainted or had a seizure that caused them to fall into the water? How would I get then out in time to provide care such as mouth to mouth or chest compressions?
This is a common scenario that plays in my head whenever I am near water. Once a lifeguard, always a lifeguard, I guess.