Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mission Bay Drowning - Rachelle & Hilary were there: How The Victim's (a stranger) Life Impacted Rachelle

Have you ever had a gut-wrenching feeling without knowing why? That happens to me sometimes when I’ve had a bad dream that I don’t remember having; yet the dream’s unpleasantness somehow lingers with me for hours or days. Or sometimes I will think about someone I knew a lifetime ag
o, and subconscious feelings of that person will remain long after they are gone from my thoughts. 

Well, something happened the other day – something terrible – that I thought I had pushed to the back of my mind. However, I’ve had those unpleasant, gut-wrenching feelings in the pit of my stomach ever since, and I need to write down my thoughts surrounding around them. 

Many of you probably saw on the news or on a Facebook newsfeed that there was a drowning in Mission Bay, California, last Saturday (Aug. 23). 

I was there. 

My husband’s family rents a beach house on Mission Bay every year, and we were down there for the day. Hilary and her family were visiting us. After getting our stuff ready to walk across Mission Blvd. to go boogie-boarding at Mission Beach, we all stopped as a chopper flew overhead and did not leave. The pilot circled the Bay, and we stopped to watch. It was a San Diego Fire Dept. helicopter. When sirens started wailing, patrol boats starts pouring in, and divers began diving in, we knew something was very, very wrong. 

At that moment in time, we had no idea what it was. Then we heard that there was an abandoned kayak in the Bay. I said a prayer while standing there that whoever was in need of help would get it in time. Our kids grew antsy, so we headed over to the beach to play in the ocean. 

We were playing in water while someone was dying in it. 

Again, we had no idea at the time the seriousness of the situation. I was hoping that the abandoned kayak in the Bay was one that the tide had taken from shore; one that had been left by someone who accidentally left it too close. I didn’t let my imagination go too crazy at that point because I was still hoping for the best.
We played in the ocean with the sound of a frantic chopper hovering above. We crossed the street when we were done and learned that there had indeed been a kayaker inside the one floating empty in Mission Bay. Witnesses had seen someone flailing and had heard someone yelling for help shortly after seeing that the kayak had capsized. 

Now we knew - someone had drowned. My wishful thinking could not change anything, and this was not someone crying wolf. This was the real deal. 

We left shortly after the incident and headed home to have a barbeque with Hilary and her family, but the pit of my stomach still ached. Today is the third day after it happened, and my stomach still aches. We learned Sunday morning that searchers had finally found the body of the missing kayaker – a 17-year old exchange student named Abdul Razak Shanun from Ghana, Africa - who was in San Diego to play basketball. Reports say he was a promising young player. 

I didn’t know this kid at all. But for some reason, his accident is haunting me. I keep having thoughts about that day. 

Sirens had started blaring and rescue boats had started gathering while we watched from the boardwalk. Hundreds of people watched from their kayaks and paddle boards and sailboats. We all watched.
And while we were watching with
curious eyes, the eyes of Abdul, a child (in my mind), were staring through choppy waters, terrified.

We were all out in the wind and sun, and he was beneath the surface in a lonely, silent world, being dragged to the bottom while frantically trying not to drown. 

Abdul could not swim. Those shouts he gave before going under were his last. Nobody could save him. He was inhaling water while we were exhaling nervously, waiting anxiously to see the head of a missing kayaker bob back up out of the water. But it never happened. 

I didn’t see it actually happen, but that was as close as I have ever been to a tragedy, and it won’t leave me. Maybe after writing this post, I can let some of it go. 

I took my boys to the beach again yesterday - a beach in Oceanside - to play in the sand and waves. 

The water beneath the surface was black. The current was so strong. I was scared the whole time. More scared than I have ever been at the beach. Abdul’s death was so instant, so silent. It was a reminder that if I took my eyes off of my boys even for a second at the beach yesterday, they could be the sea’s next victim. It sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Water is silent. It can just pull you down and that’s it. It's so quick and so permanent. 
And so preventable.

As I continue to get over the thoughts and feelings I am having surrounding Abdul’s death, I will let his story be a reminder to myself, and hopefully a reminder to all of you, that you can never be too careful. You can never be too safe. A beautiful day kayaking at the beach, a seemingly harmless day, could be the last. 

Let's keep Abdul's family in our thoughts and prayers and let him be a reminder to us that life is precious and to always be as safe as we can be. That’s all that any of us can do. 

1 comment:

Merideth Cohrs said...

Wow Rachelle - this is quite powerful. Its amazing how tragedy can force us to look at common, everyday situations very differently. I think its amazing that you worked through these emotions on 'paper' in this way - I do hope it helps.

You pay this young man tribute every time you think of him - you're amazing <3