I will always remember Memorial Day weekend, 2001, which was just two weeks after I graduated from college. I was out on a boat with my friends Erin and Loren, and despite it being late May, it was cold and gloomy. The crisp wind sprayed water drops across our faces, and I closed my eyes as we sped across the wide lake, one of Iowa's largest. It was exhilirating. The line of water and sky seemed to fade so that we were completely enveloped by gray.
Few boats were on the lake that day because of the chilly temperature, and after an hour, we decided to head back to Loren's truck. As we cruised back toward shore, I started noticing that my tennis shoes were getting wet. Suddenly there seemed to be a lot of water spilling into the boat. Not being an experienced boater, I assumed our speed was causing big splashes. I quickly realized this was not the case.
Loren, who was steering, looked at me in the back of the boat. "Where's that water coming from?" he yelled.
Waves started pouring over the sides, and I stumbled to the front where my friends were. We tried frantically to bail water from the sinking boat, which suddenly lurched forward, killing the engine upon submersion.
Realizing we were going down with the boat, we began screaming for help. We grabbed life jackets (we had been foolishly sailing without them on), and in less than a minute, we were in the freezing water. I have never been so petrified.
My purple wool sweater was completely soaked and the heavy fabric weighed me down. I grabbed ahold of Loren's arm. "Don't let go of me no matter what," I pleaded. Loren's black Adidas sandal floated a few feet away, but I refused to let him retrieve it. We bobbed helplessly in the water, frozen by fear and cold.
"HELP!" we screamed into the wind. "God," I gasped, "please don't let me die like this!" I still get chills thinking about it, but God brought this verse to my mind at that time: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you." (Isaiah 43:2)
I have no idea how long we were out there, but finally, finally, we heard the roar of a jet ski. We flailed wildly, splashing and yelling. The rider was a teenage boy, who looked terrified when he saw us in the water. He took Erin into shore first, and then alerted a rescue boat to come for Loren and me.
I struggled to climb the ladder of the large boat, fumbling my way up the steel rungs. My clothes clung to my skin, and my teeth chattered relentlessly. The chilled wind whipped my face as I huddled on the plastic seat. The officer checked us over, and I remember being told I was in the beginning stages of hypothermia.
Several people were waiting for us when we reached the shore, and someone put a coat around my shoulders. I was numb with shock and cold.
After Loren reported details of the accident to the lake patrol, a man offered to drive us to Erin's grandma's house so we could shower and get warmed up. How good it felt to let the hot water soothe my aching, trembling body. Having brought no extra clothing, we had to borrow a change of clothes.
After grabbing a bite to eat, Erin, Loren, and I got in the car for the hour's drive home. We were mostly silent on the way back, and I know we were all mentally re-playing what had just happened.
I sometimes wonder why God saved our lives that day. I remember being in the water and thinking, "I'm only 22, and I don't want my life to end this way!" I am so thankful God showed us His mercy by not letting the rivers sweep over us.
Side note and epilogue: It took rescue divers two days to find the boat, which was completely submerged at the bottom of the lake. Apparently, there had been a small hole in the fiberglass on the underside of the boat, which filled with water as we sped back across the lake.
I am still nervous around the water, and it's interesting that I married someone who practically grew up on a lake in Michigan and who learned to water ski at the age of 3!