It was a horrific experience that I would never want to go through again. At first it was just a normal night, a little rough but nothing too major. We were just off the coast of Leyte and Guam when we were hit by two missiles. At first I was just lying in bed and thought it was a problem with the engines until the abandon ship order was given. The abandon ship order is the worst nightmare for any seamen.
There was nothing I could do except follow procedures, I woke all the other men that hadn’t been woken up yet and we rushed to the deck, grabbed a life jacket and waited until the ship was close enough to the water so that when we jumped we would not die on impact. Hitting water from high enough up is like hitting concrete. We dove into the water and swam as fast as we can could away from the sinking ship so that we didn’t get pulled under from the under tow. Once we were a safe distance away we hung onto the raft like our life depended on it.
We had been told that a distress signal had been sent out and that it would only be a couple of hours before help arrived. Several hours later there was still no help and the first sign of sharks was when one of the singles was attacked and taken down within a matter of seconds. I tried not to think about the dangers lurking around but with so much time you could not help but run it through your mind. The hardest part was deciding whether to let the injured go or to keep them and risk the fact that they were attracting the sharks.
After two days there was still no sign of help and many of us were beginning to get delusional. Men were swimming off because they thought they saw an island or hula girls. Others dehydrated themselves by drink the cold water at their feet because they thought it was fresh. On the third and fifth days there were only about 30 men left and some were wielding weapons and getting restless. Luckily we were able to convince them to let them go and continue to work together and live for as long as possible. Finally on the fifth day there was a sign of hope. There was a plane fly over at about 3000 ft.
We began to wave wildly and light flares to get its attention, it flashed its lights at us and that was when we knew we would be saved. It sent out to the other ships and planes with our coordinates and rescue information. The biggest surprise to me was that it landed in the ocean. He managed to land safely and we started to pile into the plane and on the wings. The next sign was a ship, a little black dot on the horizon. That was when I had full hope that we would be rescued and could go home. The trauma that I have faced over the last several years is almost unbearable and has changed my life.
Just recently my family and I took a trip to Maui and we were supposed to go on the submarine but I could not get it out of my mind that I was on the ship all over again and I was going to drown. Even the sound of running water gives me nightmares, making me feel like I’m swimming for my life in the water all over again. Immediately when I returned home I was put in psychology classes to try to get rid of my trauma or lower the affect. These classes have not made any difference and I have recently become an alcoholic to numb the pain. It puts me in a state of mind that helps me forget about what I went through.
I know it is not a sane way to deal with it but my traumas have come to a point where I cannot handle them anymore. The Price Chapter 11 talks about the fight-or-flight response and relates it to a squirrel and a dog and a cat and a dog. Also, the traumas and what they were called at different time periods and the symptoms of post-traumatic stress. They also talk about what six people did when the arrived home and how they handled the disaster. The rest of the chapter is about the reunions that the survivors had and how they handled them.