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It was peaceful. I could even see in the water, felt no pain, no anxiety, and was completely relaxed. My body swayed to the rough tempo of the undercurrent but did not rise.
My crumpled body rolled to a sitting position on the ocean floor; the ceiling of my captor’s sanctuary glistened far above. I couldn’t move on my own, solely as the waves pushed, I rocked. My hand brushed up against my knee and my long hair flowed out in front of me.
The realization of what transpired set in. I worried if God would notice my sunken tomb to retrieve my spirit.
The waves rolled me again; I was about to go face down when I felt two strong hands firmly grab both ankles. Suddenly I was being pulled with great speed about a foot above the sandy floor, my arms outstretched as I sped backward.
I specifically remember trying to work out what was happening. Did someone dive in with ropes tied around their ankles attached to a speed boat while they were holding onto me? No, because we were precisely parallel to the ground and not bouncing at an angle with the waves.
We were perfectly steady and fast.
I distinctly felt those strong hands around my ankles adjust as the fingers gripped harder. The high ceiling of the immense ocean swiftly diminished and became shallow once again. My body drug on the sand and the hands released me. The peace was gone.
I was panic-stricken, choking, and struggling. Someone grabbed me and pulled me out on to the sand.
The sun had never felt warmer, but I was miserable, my eyes burned, and I wanted to yell out, but could not speak. They laid me on my side. I was exhausted as I choked out water and sand still packed in my nostrils. Several people worked on me for what seemed like a long while, but I was anxious to thank my astounding hero. My sight was strained, and my muscles shook as if freezing.
Under the Acapulco sun, I endured the wait. As I calmed down, I looked for my rescuer. He was the center of my focus; I owed him my life. Finally, the words rang out, “Who pulled me out?”
My cousin’s boyfriend, Juan, knelt next to me and explained how he saw my hair briefly surface. He said he stuck his hand in the water and pulled me out. I looked at him in disbelief. He was wearing a t-shirt and shorts, but his shirt was dry. “No!” I said, “Who pulled me in from the deep?” He tried to explain, “No one saw where you went, you were gone in an instant.”
Our conversation was cut short by men shouting at us. Lifeguards and police came down the beach yelling for everyone to leave. They said we needed to get away from the water, the waves would likely continue, and they were right!
The tsunami waves were caused by earthquakes in the ocean. When we left, we could still see sand, but by nightfall, the vast, wide beach, restaurants, and over four city blocks would become part of the ocean. It took a long time to get back to the hotel; people were blocking the streets and rushing to move their families and belongings out of the water’s way. The hotel we were in was not near the ocean, so we went back to change, relax, and order food.
News had reached Mexico City and my mom was desperate to hear my voice. When we finally entered the lobby the front desk clerk at our hotel asked if one of us was Belinda. He explained my mother had called well over 30 times crying and was inconsolable.
He instructed me to call her from the lobby; she made him promise. I did not even hear the phone ring and she had already picked up sobbing hysterically. She saw the devastation on the news and knew we would be on the beach. She listed off all the police stations, rescue organizations, and hotels she had called trying to find out about me. Her eldest brother finally found the number of the hotel we were staying in. Hearing her voice gave me strength.
I had been trying to not let my anxiety show. Always being the youngest cousin was hard on me, trying to act mature when I just wanted to cry. Mom kept repeating, “I thought you died; I thought you died.” I reassured her I was fine.
She could not calm down, “When I saw the tsunami on the news, I thought you had died!” My mom seemed fragile though she could be very brave. Her name was Josie, she was my best friend and I was her only child. I always called her my little mom and felt very responsible for her care. She was a delicate little girl in an adult life yet lived a spectacular existence until health problems caught up with her.
She would tell me, “You are my obsession!” Now my little mom lived vicariously through me and I was happy to oblige.
She did have a damaged heart, which eventually led to heart valve replacements and a stroke, that took her life. The day she died I held her hand as her heartbeat slowed to nothing. It was the worst day of my life. But back then, I rarely told her how bad things were, everyone showed the same courtesy. We all tried to protect her, yet she was more valiant than all of us.
The conversation was as it had to be; I described what was happening in Acapulco but said nothing about what happened to me. I wanted to tell her everything, but there would be no stopping her. She would have found a ride to Acapulco.
Several times in her life she would convince me to let her join in by saying, “If you’re going to die, I want to die with you!” At this point though, I was still very young, and she had a lot of problems with her legs, so I had to go most places alone. I finally consoled her, and our conversation ended.
I met them upstairs, changed, and fell asleep until the news woke me. The news spoke of the subsequent tsunami waves still hitting Acapulco.
The report said 13 cars had been swept into the ocean, they found four people dead, and the sea now covered several city blocks. I decided I would never step foot in the ocean again.
Nightfall finally made it. We were hungry and found a restaurant who agreed to bring us pizza and drinks. We ate, we drank, we played cards, and I was stir-crazy. This echo kept resonating in my head like song lyrics,”You are not a victim, you will see the world, you will travel upon the ocean; go out now and face it.” Absolutely not!
I stepped out into the hallway to get away from my own thoughts and I felt a strong urgency to go out in the water. It was irrational nonsense. The bad song kept repeating like an alarm, “You are not a victim, you will see the world, you will travel upon the ocean; go out now and face it.”
I felt crazy. Then an unexpected bravery came upon me and I convinced my non-trustworthy cousin that he owed me, since he left me in the ocean, to go with me.
Our hotel was about five city blocks inland, yet when we opened the stairway door to the lobby, the elevator being inoperable, we realized how big those waves really were that terrorized Acapulco. Our hotel lobby had about three feet of murky water filling the building.
We stepped outside of the tsunami’s latest flood victim to see the surrounding lights of the now under-ocean swimming pool. Thank goodness for those high beams designating its location or we could have been under again.
I had never seen such a bizarre and tremendous sight. You could not see the beach and the first few blocks of businesses were completely flooded over. The Police were in small boats getting citizens from rooftops. People had tied ropes around palm trees and utility poles to avoid getting swept away.
A red double decker bus made its way down the street and created a small wave. We watched as a woman clung to a street pole pushed by the wave, her long dress inflated around her. We ventured out further.
We tied our belts together like a rope making it from pole, to palm tree, to pole holding on tight to each anchored entity. We made it up to a flat rooftop still underwater, but next to a utility pole and metal beams with attached metal steps.
We stood there in silence. The water swayed us back and forth as we watched this astonishing episode of our lives. He lived in the asphalt jungle of Mexico City and I, in Iowa. I assumed I would never see this again, so I wanted to take it all in.
The moonlight shown over the surrounding dark water. We watched some of the people further down the embankment as they were rocked gently to the current. Like a guilty father after he overzealously beat his child, the ocean had also lost its vicious rage and was now soothing us to its sullen tempo.
It was mesmerizing. The tranquility of the ocean’s black surface shone like a mirror reflecting the overbearing moon and brilliant stars. There were no clouds in sight; the ebony sea appeared to melt into the shimmering sky. The brute had finally eased to a pacified calm.
I thought I should be scared, angry, or resentful’ but I felt none of those, in fact quite the opposite. I felt free, blessed, protected, and in absolute awe. It was an astonishing moment.
I waited until college to tell mom how the tsunami took me and how I thought of her as I fought its power and failed. Then a miracle happened.
I felt genuinely humbled that an angel, a heavenly being of God’s glory, would save me. I have gone over it in my head hundreds of times, nothing else could have retrieved me.
I barely have any importance, yet in the depths of the ocean God sought me out. Recognize your value; you too, are beloved. We are never hidden nor insignificant to our Savior.
Competition strengthens skill, yet the victory can be overshadowed by impaired relationships from wounded egos.
My mother and I visited Mexico City every summer. During this visit I stayed with her youngest brother and his family of talented athletes. My cousin was an incredible runner. In a megalopolis of millions, the rivalry was fierce, and she, was a contender.
Her room was that of a champion, walls filled with trophies and medals; the large medal awards hung one on top of the other on her four bedposts like colorful ribbon necklaces with the gold medallions on top. The impressive trophies stood on book shelves and overflowed in boxes. She was an accomplished athlete and I very much admired her.
My sweet mom would put my blue ribbons from our rural town in Iowa on the refrigerator. I won the races I ran, but still there were only eight or nine small ribbons, each with cardboard tags stapled to the back describing the event. In our town, we participated in every sport so we would have enough people to compete with the other country towns.
Competition strengthens skill, yet the victory can be overshadowed by impaired relationships from wounded egos. When my cousin asked if I would join her on her morning runs, I was honored. She ran about 7 kilometers. I quickly accepted the offer and hoped I could keep up. It was hard.
We would jog through the nice neighborhoods and admire the large homes with massive walls surrounding their properties, which still allowed some access to viewing the exquisite residences inside. She mapped out a route where we did not have to cross any major intersections or wait for traffic.
The path was scenic, which distracted from how tired I was, and at this time in the morning there were other people exercising in the parks and in the athletic field we jogged around. It was generally a little hazy in the mornings and a good temperature.
It was all enjoyable, except for the section around one of the largest homes we would pass. This immense home had an impressive stone facade, reminiscent of a castle, complete with wrought iron bars over the windows and matching front gates.
Behind this long section of fencing were four guard dogs, two appeared to be thick-headed, mostly brown Dobermans and two looked as if they were a type of Rottweiler but with long tails. I love, love, love dogs and they usually like me, but these four were clearly trained to protect their stronghold.
With each passing run, they grew more agitated as if we were taunting them by disturbing the perimeter of their fortress. I wanted to express to them how much I adored animals, but they were not interested in flattery or treats. Due to home invasions a lot of the larger homes had trained dogs who would not even take meat from strangers. We tried.
Every time we went around that corner, they were ready and chased us from one end of the block to the other, always behind those thick black bars. This home took up nearly the whole city block and the fencing had the grey castle-type stone about three feet up, then the wrought iron continued for what looked like another six or seven feet with decorative spikes adorning the top.
I was quite observant of the fencing since it was the only blockade keeping the agitated canines from attacking. Although we had not seen it open, the only entrance appeared to be through a locked gate which looked like it opened to allow cars out from the adjoining garage.
I asked if we could avoid this property by crossing the street before reaching them, but she explained we would have to jog in place at the light then risk traversing a very busy highway which she assured me was more dangerous than the dogs. Consequently, we continued the pleasant winding path through the scenic side streets, then turned on that castle corner where the dogs’ sudden barks always made me jump even though I knew it was coming.
All was good; then one morning she did not want to go anymore. I knew why, but I hoped it would not be an issue. The morning prior, as we were on our last four blocks or so, we turned left by this fantastic candy store, and she said “stop.” I anxiously hoped we had stopped for candy.
Every morning for weeks we passed it and I craved the Mexican candy, but no luck. She wanted to race me the last few blocks.
In track I was a sprinter and terrible at distance running. She was the one who helped me become a better runner, but I enjoyed sprinting and the competition, so I agreed. Regrettably, I won our little race by a good stretch and worried my victory would not be forgiven.
I had enjoyed our runs and time together. She was older than me and I looked up to her, but the next morning she would not get out of bed. I tried for about 20 minutes to convince her to no avail.
I realized the danger of running by myself, especially being so young; I knew I should not go. It was still early though, and we had not come across any danger in all the time we had been running, so I went by myself.
I ran out their gate and to the left as always, taking the same path I had become accustom to, so as not to get lost. Feeling very independent I was breathing deep and taking in every sight. Coming up to the block where the dogs would bark at me, I started to build my courage so as not to jump this time.
I decided I would run a bit faster past them to make the encounter a quicker one. At this point I was at least 30 minutes later than usual as I turned the corner to be met with the manic barks of the castle guards.
There they were as if even more angry I made them wait and chased me to the end of the fence; done. Grateful that was over I slowed down a bit only to hear a new sound·the gate was opening. The owner drove off in his car and turned right. Before the gate closed all the way the dogs were out!
I was instantly terrified as I realized I was the object of their pursuit. I yelled out “God!” and took off sprinting. I knew how this could end. Their wrath had been building for weeks.
Frantically I ran into the street hoping they would be scared by oncoming cars. I would rather be killed by a car than ripped apart by dogs. The vehicles did not phase them in the slightest.
I felt hot breath on the back of my legs and heard the chomp of a jaw as my speed abruptly increased and I came to a frightful realization. I was not touching the ground! I was still running, but I could not feel my feet bounce off the pavement. I was no longer in control and terrified of stumbling. What was happening?
There was a football practice going on just up ahead at the end of the next city block. I wanted to run into the middle of their practice. With 30 plus guys I hoped the dogs would run away. I could still hear them right behind me.
There was a sidewalk I had to get up to and cross to make it onto the practice field, yet since I was not touching the ground, I was petrified I might trip over it. No more had the thought crossed my mind I was already over the step yet still not feeling pavement nor the grass of the field while in a feverish stride.
I went right into the middle of the players. Some of them just were noticing the chase. Surrounded by the athletes, I finally looked back. The dogs stopped their pursuit at mid-field when a car pulled up, honked, and a man yelled for them.
Their owner must have seen them escape and finally managed to get turned around to follow. He yelled again for his pack with the car door wide open. All four dogs ran toward him and looked like happy puppies to see their master as they jumped into his car. He was gone without a second look back.
The first thing one of the players said was, “I have never seen anyone run that fast – it looked like you were flying.” Now I am fully aware I cannot outrun a pack of dogs, any dog as far as that goes.
People have told me it was probably adrenaline. Those are people who have never been chased by guard dogs.
My feet stopped touching the ground just a few seconds into the chase. I did not save myself.
We have all seen videos of criminals out running police officers, then the dog comes out and catches them in seconds. No one can say that criminal did not have adrenaline on his side.
Danger always seems to come on so quickly, I am never quite ready for it, but I am eternally grateful God is ready. There is no other explanation I could think of; it certainly was not me.
I knew I should not have been running by myself in a dangerous city. All the homes had bars on every window, and many had guard dogs, but I still risked it.
I probably deserved punishment, but God gave me mercy. I was reckless, but God saved me anyway. I did not have the ability to escape, so God carried me.
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