It was the spring of 2000. Jarrod was a toddler, close to 18 months old. I had taken him to Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park in Renton, Washington to go play on the playground and walk on the docks in Lake Washington. We’d done it probably a 100 times before. There was nothing special about that day when we got there.
I took his hand when we strolled out onto the dock together. Jarrod shook free and started running. I told him to walk on the dock, but because I had my eyes on him and I was only a few steps behind him, I wasn’t too worried. And then. Then this little stinker stopped right by the edge of the dock and he looked right at me. With a devilish little expression on his face. And I knew.
I knew Jarrod was thinking about stepping right off the dock. I shook my head at him and told him no, but I picked up my pace to close the gap between us anyway. Just before I was close enough to preemptively grab his hand, my son stepped right off the dock. And he disappeared underneath the water immediately. There was no noise. It was silent. There was barely a ripple on the water’s surface where he had just been. He didn’t splash, flail, or scream, like I thought people did when they were in trouble in the water (thank you, Hollywood). He sank. If I hadn’t seen him go into the water, I would have had absolutely no idea where he had gone. That thought chilled me to the bone.
Fortunately, I was able to lean over, grab ahold of him, and haul him back up immediately – wet but unharmed. I hugged his sopping wet body against my own, thanking God for safely shattering the myths I believed about drowning before a real tragedy had struck. I thought about all of the parents who lounged here on the beach with their noses in books, blithely assuming that if their children, who were playing in the lake, were in trouble, there would be a big commotion to warn them…and it made me ill.
I promised myself that I would tell my story whenever the opportunity arose. Articles like this one always begin circulating again right about now, and since I am as big on adults educating themselves as I am children being able to educate themselves, here we are. I cannot encourage you strongly enough to click on that link and read that article. I don’t get anything for having you click through, other than the satisfaction of knowing that if you were still operating under the same assumptions as I had been about what it looks like when a child is in trouble in the water before my son stepped off the dock, you won’t be anymore.