The two little girls were best friends since kindergarten. They did everything together. They ate lunch together, played together after school, had sleep overs, even dressed in the same colors. “L” and “M”. “M” was a swimmer, and really quite good for her age, earning a spot on the local swim team. Her mother dreamed of her earning a scholarship to college as her coach suggested she would, if she kept swimming. “L” would be at her swim meets, cheering her on. They had just graduated second grade and were looking forward to being third graders on-
July 4, 2014
The parents gathered for a day of sun and fun and of course fireworks. Hot dogs were grilling, the kids were eating all kinds of junk food and having a blast. The ‘moms’ were all on the beach at the lake, ‘watching’ their kids, but mostly gossiping and relaxing. Beer was hidden and flowed freely, too early in the day for them. The dads were playing Frisbee, and volleyball, flexing muscles not used from their posh office jobs. Beer was hidden and flowed freely, too early in the day for them. Fireworks were scheduled at dusk.
A local lake, pristine and beautiful and non threatening with a man made beach, clean white sand, and a grove of trees surrounding the lake was the scene for this holiday. Signs were posted, ‘No Lifeguard’. The smaller children were playing at the edge of the water, dipping in their toes, squealing in delight…not understanding completely, but knowing that it was a Fun Day and they were definitely having Fun! Few parents were in the water. They would take a dip to cool off, but preferred the sun and gossip and relaxation of a lazy sunny day. Beer was hidden and flowed freely. Older teens were swimming in the deeper parts of the lake, ignoring their parents and younger siblings, having a day to themselves, just having fun and relaxing.
“L and M” were in the lake as well, not out too far, but not very close to shore. They could touch the bottom with their toes. They were playing with noodles, paddling around, enjoying the coolness of the water, the happy sun shining down, the lazy days of summer and the promise of great fireworks.
“M” swam out a little further, stretching her muscles, practicing her swimming technique, and yet not even knowing it. “L” could swim a little, but took her noodle with her, following her friend to the deeper part of the lake. “L” had a little brother who was loved but very annoying at times. He and his little friends were closer to shore, but when he saw the girls swimming out farther, he decided to follow. The girls could no longer touch the bottom. They weren’t worried or scared because “M” was a great swimmer, and “L” had her noodle. Once her brother reached her, squealing with delight like only little brothers can do, he took “L’s” noodle. She paddled and gasped and panicked and tried to swim to the more shallow part of the lake. She began to cry out for mommy. Mommy was not paying attention. She was talking to her friends, having fun and drinking....”M” saw that “L” was going under the water. Her strong little arms churned her through the lake toward her friend. “M” was not panicked or worried. She was a great swimmer and knew that she would reach her best friend. “L” was bobbing up and down, and alerted one of the teen boys and his friends by her cries, and they immediately starting swimming from the middle of the lake to her in order to help. Mommy was not paying attention. She was talking to her friends, having fun and drinking…..“L’s” brother started to scream and cry, as did his little friends as he tried to give his sister her noodle to grab on to. Still, she was so completely panicked that she could not quite grasp it. “M” reached her first. She dove down with the intention of holding her up and gently getting her safely to a place in the lake where she could touch. “L” felt someone grab her legs and her waist and instead of relaxing and letting herself be brought safely to the shallow end of the lake, or to the shore, she panicked even more, imagining a snake. She kicked and thrashed and fought like a wild cat, all the time not being able to breathe and searching the shore for her mommy. Her brother was screaming at the top of his lungs and some of the parents were alerted that something was not right and they began to look toward the lake with a buzz filled mind. The fuzziness of the day spent sunning, and drinking blew away as they noticed a little boy on a noodle screaming his head off, along with his little friends. A teen that had swam like a shark to the scene from the middle of the lake grabbed “L” in a vice grip and carried her to shore. He put her down and ran back for her little brother. His friends were not far behind and grabbed the other little boys and brought them one by one to shore. “L” was gasping and could not breathe. She was yelling and crying and shaking. She was trying to tell one of the teen boys that her friend was still in the lake. He went back out and dove down and looked through the murky water, looking for a pink bathing suit and blonde hair. He ran out of air and went down again, and again, and again. One of the teen boys stayed on shore and took “L” to her mommy and then picked up her brother and took him over too.. Another teen boy grabbed each of the other little boys and deposited them with their parents. The smallest of the teen boys, and yet heavily muscled, concerned, and scared, went to his beach towel where his phone was. He didn’t bother alerting any of the adults starting to get up and come into the lake. He called 9-11. He watched his friend searching under the water for the other little girl. He dropped his phone, hollered to his other teen friends and they ran back into the lake, stretched their arms, kicked their feet, feeling pain, and yet pushing through it in order to get to the area of the lake where they thought the little girl had ‘gone down’. Four teen boys searched underwater and came back up, searched again, and came back up, never stopped until the rescue squad came, rescue personnel to dive the lake came, along with the police. Twenty minutes had gone by.. Parents were now in the lake In Force, searching, swimming, diving, calling, crying, and praying that ‘M’ would be found. Other parents were on the beach and rallied the children together in groups and tried to calm them. Cries of children were all that could be heard all around the lake. The shrieks of “L” were so loud that many lake home owners could hear a commotion at the lake and began riding down on their golf carts to see if they could help. Bottles of water were passed out by the lake house community. Those that were paramedics or doctors came as well to assist those on shore that needed comforting. All were watching the lake except for ‘L’. She was screaming and screaming and screaming and shrieking and could not breathe very well. She was hyperventilating and would not accept any water, nor comfort from her mommy or anyone. Her daddy was called. He did not want her at the lake that day because Mommy was famous for ‘not watching carefully, for visiting, drinking, and enjoying herself’. They went anyway. “L” was loaded into the ambulance and taken to the hospital. She had water in her lungs and was treated and kept overnight. Her daddy was an EMT so he came directly to the lake and helped with the search effort. His parents, (L’s grandparents) were called to sit with her at the hospital and pick up her brother. Mommy was taken to a friends where she cried and cried and passed out, no good to anyone.
Bright halogen lights were set up around the lake. Divers were still working, knowing that if the little girl was found, she would be dead. Fireworks were cancelled. “L” was dreaming of what she and “M” would wear the first day of third grade. She awoke in the hospital and remembered what happened at the lake. Her grandmother was at her bedside. “L” looked over at her with a question in her eyes. Her grandmother held her hand and prayed. “L” began to shriek and cry again and had to be sedated. “M” was in Heaven.
July 4, 2016
As the holiday rolls around, parents must be mindful of their children. They should be mindful all the time of course. Was it the alcohol? Was it the parents just wanting a break from their grueling schedules and Lives? Was it the mom that was not watching? No judgement. It doesn’t matter. A child died trying to save her friend on July 4, 2014. She had a great future ahead of her but God called her Home for some reason that can’t be explained. “L” now hates the Fourth of July. She has had a very hard two years without her best friend. She has been in and out of counseling. Her grief is still fresh, her guilt is apparent in her dull blue eyes that used to shine. She is just a child. She will heal in time of course, but thus far, has not even begun to get over that fateful day. Her grandparents have enrolled her swimming lessons over the past two years and she has become a good swimmer. Fear kept her from learning or wanting to learn. She swims for “M”.
There were many heroes that day. The young teen boys were heroic in their efforts and still they feel guilt. They feel that maybe if they….and yet they have been able to move on. “L”‘s mommy is till the same. Her daddy is involved as he can be, and goes to therapy with her. She has her grandparents in her life, encouraging, and praying and loving. “L” still talks to “M”. She looks up to the skies on sunny days and wonder if she is playing on a could. She watches the skies at night and wonders if she is one of the stars. She prays that she is enjoying Heaven and looks forward to the day when they will be reunited. She reluctantly swims and wonders if “M” is watching her, helping her stretch out her arms, move her head for a breath, kick her little feet…..She will never be the same…..
This is a true story.