Into The Lake

One late November night in 1970, my mom, sister and me were heading downtown to the Dayton’s 8th floor Christmas display and dinner at Nanking. I was 14, my sister Kellie was 7. A light snow was falling making the roads a little slippery. As we left Mound and went through Navarre, County road 15 began its snake-like curves alongside Lafayette Bay shoreline. My mom made comments on the weather saying maybe we shouldn’t be going tonight which made my sister whine. We had dressed up for this outing in hopes that we would have pictures with Santa. It had finally been cold enough that night to wear my new coat that was like wearing a bear. It kept me so warm, however, it would soon become my anchor in the icy lake. Without time to react, the car in front of us slowed quickly to take a left turn. Trying to avoid rear-ending them my mom swerved our car to go around them. The slippery roads caused us to spin around and before we knew it, our car headed straight for the lake.  Going over the rocky ledge, speed propelled our car out into the water. Hood first we began to sink fast. As the water came into the car through the floor, the car sank moving farther and farther away from shore. Inside the car, my mom screamed in terror, telling me to take off my shoe to try to break the window. Wearing the big furry coat made it hard to reach my shoes which were already under water. Kellie was crying in the back seat, pounding on the windows, screaming “mommy, mommy”. We continued hitting the windows and trying to open the doors as the water came over the hood towards the windshield. We could feel the car nosing down in the water sending Kellie to the front seat and all of us towards the dashboard.  The water was cold as it approached our waists. We could not open the doors and could not break the windows. In hindsight rolling the windows down might have been useful but we didn’t think of that then. I was aware of activity going on outside the car, I saw different people on the outside of the car trying to pull the doors open, they would come down near the windows and then go back up for air and another person would come down.  Finally two men tried the door together as the water inside was nearing our necks and outside only the roof of the car was visible. Someone had gotten a nearby boat which they guided next to the sinking car. When both doors finally burst open, the water gushed in. An arm reached in and grabbed my coat sleeve pulling me from the car, telling me to hang on as he tried to pull me towards the boat. However, I had other plans. I pushed passed my rescuer and started swimming for shore. I never even stopped to consider helping my mom or sister out of the car, I guess I assumed the men who helped me would save them. I would save myself. It was now very dark, the rocky shoreline was hard to see but I didn’t think I had far to go. I could hear my sister and my mom screaming loudly as they were pulled from the car that disappeared seconds later into 30 feet of water. My furry coat tripled my weight making it harder and harder to lift my arms to swim, pulling me down instead of making any progress towards safety. There were people on the shoreline calling to me, telling me I was almost there, I wondered why they were not coming in the water to grab me. As I got closer to shore I put my feet down hoping I could walk the rest of the way in. But there was no bottom. My coat was so heavy and I was so cold and tired I couldn’t go any farther. I felt myself starting to sink, just like the car, down into the depths of the water. There was a moment I thought I would drown catching site of blurred figures in front of flashing red lights from the shore as I closed my eyes. A few people had climbed down the rocky shoreline and reached out to grab my coat and somehow pulled my body up out of the water.  The boat carrying my mom and sister had been brought to a nearby dock. I saw them being wrapped in blankets and getting into a waiting police car. The big house across the road from the accident offered the 3 of us a place to get out of our wet clothes, into a warm bath and gave us some hot chocolate. My mother was probably given something stronger than cocoa. She was too traumatized to drive for a very long time after the accident. Even with my limited spiritual upbringing up to that point, I knew without a doubt that it was God who saved us. He planned for the right people to be near us that were willing to jump in the water, possibly causing themselves harm, in an attempt to save us. Only God knows the number of our days. Thankfully that was not the end… not at age 14.