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Health My Family Almost Drowned. Then, 50 Strangers Stepped In and Saved Us.

19:06  10 august  2018
19:06  10 august  2018 Source:   goodhousekeeping.com

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More than 50 strangers pulled together to rescue nine people from drowning . Courtesy of Rosalind Beckton. I got a response from Jessica describing everything that happened to a T.” Since then , she and Jessica have become good friends and talk almost daily.

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  My Family Almost Drowned. Then, 50 Strangers Stepped In and Saved Us. © Three Images/Getty Images Roberta Ursrey flailed her legs and arms wildly, trying to hold her head above the choppy ocean water. She was between her sons, Noah, 11, and Stephen, 8, who clung to their bodyboards, shivering and frightened out of their minds as they struggled with a rip current that had pulled them 100 yards off Panama City Beach in Florida. Roberta, a 34-year-old mother of four, tried to assure them they’d be fine, but “I honestly thought I was going to lose them that day,” she says - and her own life as well.

A half hour earlier, Roberta had just come out of the restroom when she saw that the boys, who had been playing in shallow water, were suddenly far from shore. Roberta called to them to come in closer - and heard them scream to her for help. “I threw my phone down, and I went in,” she says. “People told me not to, but I was like, I don’t care - those are my kids and I’m going.” She reached her children, but no matter how hard she tried to pull them ashore, the powerful undertow sucked them all away again. “I thought I was a good swimmer, but the tide proved me wrong,” she says. “We tried swimming to the side and backward, and it didn’t work - we were pulled right back out."

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My Family Almost Drowned . Then , 50 Strangers Stepped In and Saved Us . A Part of Hearst Digital Media Good Housekeeping participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may get paid commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites.

When Roberta Ursery's entire family was caught in a deadly riptide in Florida, she leaned on strangers for help.: The Day My Family Almost Drowned© Provided by Hearst Communications, Inc The Day My Family Almost Drowned Roberta and her boys weren’t alone in the water on that hot afternoon in July 2017; her 68-year-old mother, Barbara, and her nephew had also run in to attempt to help, but had been dragged out too. Nearby, a couple visiting from Asia clung to waterlogged pool noodles as their children screamed, in hysterical tears, from the shore. And her husband, Bryan, who had taken their daughters for a walk and had at first been unaware of the unfolding emergency, had raced in after his family and been pulled out as well. In all, nine adults and kids were caught in the deadly riptide.

It was after 5 p.m., so no lifeguard was on duty, and while a crowd of people had formed onshore, no one knew how to help. The waves were getting wilder, and the boys were losing their grips on their boards. Roberta feared the worst.

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Down the beach, married couple Jessica, 29, and Derek Simmons, 26, had just finished a picnic dinner when they saw the commotion in the distance. They ran over, and Derek waded out up to his chest but turned back when he felt the strong current grab at him. These people are drowning, he thought. But there was no way to get to them. “You could see the mom and grandmother trying to float on their backs,” says Jessica. “But they were exhausted. I knew if they didn’t get something to float on, they would drown.”

Thinking fast, Derek yelled at others onshore to make a human chain. He’d seen a nature show on TV about how ants built bridges from their combined bodies to cross water - why not try that with people? Six people volunteered, then 10, then more. “I kept coaching them, telling them, ‘Hold each other, and we won’t get swept out,’ ” says Derek. Within minutes, some 50 people had joined the chain. Like a master conductor, Derek orchestrated a group of strangers of all races and ages to join hands and spread out into the ocean in a line toward the people trapped in the rip current. Planting their legs firmly in the sand, they lined up next to one another, the tallest out front and the shortest on the shore as an anchor.

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Jessica grabbed two bodyboards left on the beach and raced to the front of the line, where the tallest volunteer could barely keep his feet planted. Only the rip current separated her from the exhausted swimmers 15 feet away. Jessica, an expert swimmer, took two big breaths and forged her way toward Noah and Stephen. “I had to keep myself calm and try to keep them calm too,” she says. “I knew they would get out of there alive.”

When Roberta saw the chain building and Jessica coming, “I got an adrenaline rush,” she says. She grabbed Stephen’s board and pushed him toward her. “I said, ‘I don’t care if I make it or not; just take him,’ ” Roberta says. As Jessica pulled Stephen’s board by its string, she replied, “We are going to get all of you!” She tugged him back to the chain. “I told him, ‘Kick the hardest you’ve ever kicked in your life!’ ”

a group of people on a beach: More than 50 strangers pulled together to rescue nine people from drowning.© Courtesy of Rosalind Beckton More than 50 strangers pulled together to rescue nine people from drowning. Shouting “Pull! Pull!” each person yanked Stephen down the line until he was safely on the beach. It was Noah’s turn next, then Roberta’s. “When I got to the grandmother, she seemed just gone,” says Jessica. “She was barely breathing and not making any sense when she spoke.” But one by one, Jessica and Derek’s makeshift human chain rescued all nine people.

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My Family Almost Drowned .

Complete strangers banded together to form a human chain Saturday to rescue a family caught in a Florida riptide. Eighty beachgoers rushed into the water

Back onshore, Roberta had blacked out. When she awoke, she says, “the first thing I heard was, ‘She’s not breathing,’ I jumped up and saw it was my mom.” She had suffered a heart attack in the water and was receiving CPR from paramedics, who had by then arrived on the scene. “I was scared to death,” Roberta says. “I watched my daddy pass away. I wasn’t ready to lose my momma.”

As an ambulance whisked Roberta’s mom to the hospital, she headed for her own car to follow - and was stopped by Jessica. “She asked me if I was OK, and all I could do was grab her and tell her, ‘Thank you,’"says Roberta. “I didn’t even get her name.” (Fortunately, Roberta’s mom survived and is now recovering.)

Soon after, Roberta posted the story on the Panama City Facebook page. “I wrote a long post asking who everyone was because I wanted to thank them for being my angels that day,” she says. “Without them, we wouldn’t have made it. I got a response from Jessica describing everything that happened to a T.” Since then, she and Jessica have become good friends and talk almost daily. “I tell her she’s stuck with me now,” laughs Roberta.

Last September, Jessica and Derek received an award from the Heroes for Freedom organization of humanitarians - but they don’t necessarily see themselves as heroes. “I would hope somebody would do that for me or someone I loved too,” says Jessica.

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Despite the terror, Roberta says the experience instilled in her a deep faith in humanity: “That day there was every race, ethnicity, sex, couldn’t speak English, could speak English. Everybody just stood together to make it happen, and that was amazing.

How to Survive a Rip Current

Often triggered by sandbar breaks (as happened in Panama City), rip currents are responsible for over 80% of lifeguard rescues at beaches every year, according to the U.S. Lifesaving Association. Its advice if you get caught in one:

Stay calm to help conserve your energy. Try to catch a lifeguard’s or beachgoer’s eye to let him or her know you’re in danger.

Don't fight the current. Instead, swim parallel to the shoreline until you’re past the pull of the rip. Then turn and swim steadily toward shore.

If you're unable to escape the current, float or tread water until you’re rescued.

Never swim alone or when lifeguards aren’t on duty. Even expert swimmers are at risk in rip currents.

Get the whole family swimming lessons. Babies can start at 6 months; adults should take water-safety training and CPR classes.

This story originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of Good Housekeeping.

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