The night was dark and stormy. We were sailing home on a large wooden yacht, back from a late summer cruise along the Atlantic coast. The colors were silver and black, as the wind whipped across the ocean and the skies. We were on the open sea, and I would have rather been anywhere else but there.
The waves, walls of water, rose and fell in dramatic rhythms and pounding sounds. I was always afraid on the ocean, though the beach and the shore have always been my treasured and secure home. I felt renewal and comfort there.
My father was the captain. Now, so many years later, he passed away two summers ago. That night his place was at the helm. The windswept sky revealed glimpses of a silver moon, as the clouds moved rapidly along.
I thought it was the cry of a seabird, but my father, in his heightened awareness as captain, said that we were to come about, turn the boat around to find the source of a faint sound. The waves were rolling and the boat rocked from side to side as we moved through the sea and the night.
He was right. My father was right to come about in the stormy sea. First at a distance, and then closer, we caught sight of a very small overturned boat. Two girls, teenagers, were hanging on as the water was rolling over them, swallowing them and letting them go. My heart sank. This was my nightmare.
It was tricky and dangerous to rescue the two girls. We had to keep a distance so that our boat would not roll into them. It was lifelines and patience in the face of great danger that we were able to get them on board. Elation that we had saved them!
The elation soon changed to a great and solemn silence, as they told us their tale of holding on to the overturned boat for a day and a night, fourteen some hours in the rolling sea. And during those hours, they had witnessed the drowning, the disappearance, of their mother, an aunt, an uncle, and a twin sister. Lost at sea.
We tried to comfort the girls, who, in a state of shock, asked why god would let this happen. I didn’t know the answer. I was a terrified nine year old girl. My father was talking to the coast guard as my brother took the helm. My mother and I were wrapping the girls in blankets, unable to answer their questions. Grief, shock and despair took hold.
We sailed to the nearest port, where the ambulances, the police, the coast guard were waiting, along with the bright lights of the television crews. It was raining, and somewhere there is a scrap of an old newspaper, with a picture of my family as we sat so sadly in the boat, finally secured to the dock by ropes.
My father jumped into one of the coast guard boats, to go back out into the storm to help look for survivors, or more likely, lost souls.
My father was a hero, and though this is a rescue story, it is the story of two sides of fate.