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The ocean almost took my son, please don’t let this be your story, too!  

I am sure you are packing things up and preparing for your trip. Your kids are excited and can’t wait to get to the beach. You are planning out your days of fun in the sun. I was, too. I thought I was prepared. I had ordered groceries and packed the first aid kit, beach towels, and snorkels, and had enough sunscreen to protect us front the elements.

I was prepared . . . or so I thought.  

Three days into our trip, our son was almost taken from us. I had heard of rip currents, sometimes known as riptides or strong undercurrents. We had talked about how mighty the sea can be and good friends and family had even talked to my kids about how to escape a riptide. I am hyper-vigilant when my kids are in the water and we did everything we were told to do. But still, after all that, the ocean had a different plan for us.  

The first part of our trip was perfect. My children had enjoyed the ocean’s beautiful waters for days and I LOVED to sit and watch their smiles and squeals of excitement each time they caught a wave and rode it in. The ocean was calm but strong. I wasn’t worried; I was always right there. 

RELATED: My Son Drowned While I Was Just a Few Feet Away: What Every Parent Needs To Know About Drowning.

On this day, the water was crystal clear and it was such a perfect day; we packed our lunch and decided to take a small ferry to an island so the kids could go snorkeling for seashells and crabs. The ferry dropped us off and we put up our umbrella for a beautiful day at this amazing little island not far off the coast.  

It was stunning. There were huge rocks that separated the crashing of the waves and the small lagoon-type cove. It was our calm, and quiet spot. My older three children climbed the rocks with friends and decided to see if they could make it all the way down the beach. Their strong teenage bodies looked so little next to these huge rocks. God’s creations were stunning.  

I grabbed my phone to take pictures and we walked down the beach to follow the boys to the end of the rocks where the cove met the ocean, discussing the entire time how beautiful and peaceful this place was. My youngest, who didn’t climb the rocks, stopped every couple of feet and posed for a picture each time he discovered something new. Looking back, I remember rolling my eyes thinking, It’s just another rock, but sure, I’ll take your picture.

If the ocean had its way, those may have been the last pictures of my child. Thank God they weren’t. 

As we neared the end of the rocks, we commented on how different the waves looked compared to the beach where we were staying. My youngest headed straight toward the ocean as he had done every day that week. He had spent days wading and loving every second of the water. He was a few steps in when we yelled and motioned to him to get out of the ocean and away from the rocks. My husband headed his way. At the same time, my older boys were on the rocks right above us and our attention was drawn to them for a quick second. It was a matter of seconds.  

The next thing I remember is my husband screaming at me and jumping in the water. I could see my son about 20 yards out in the water being slammed against the rocks. My heart sank. How did he get there? What happened? He was just a few feet out! He could touch! How did he get so far out?

It is an image I wish I could forget. He was struggling to stay above water as the waves crashed around him. I prayed and I prayed!  

My husband tried to get to him, but the waves kept coming at both of them. With each wave, our son was pulled farther away. I ran toward the water and the second I got a few feet in, I felt the rage of the ocean and instantly knew the severity of the situation. The friends we were with and another sweet man there with his children ran in toward us but we were all helpless against the rage of the waves.

I knew we were in trouble. We lost sight of our son several times as the waves engulfed him. He was being pulled under over and over by the rip current and being slammed into the rocks. My husband got to him quickly and was able to position himself between our child and the rocks. He somehow got our son thrown far enough away from the crashing of the waves to push him to me. At the same time my husband was being beaten by the waves into the rocks, but was somehow able to push himself out, away from the rocks, and back to shore.

Only by the grace of God and quick thinking was my husband able to get both himself and our son away from the grip of the ocean. 

As my son walked to shore, he started to cry. We both cried. I pulled my son so close to me—I didn’t ever want to let go. As I looked at my husband walking in front the ocean, I noticed he was covered in blood. They were both covered in blood. It was dripping down both their legs and arms and my husband was pretty beaten up and had a big gouge out of his hand. (Thankful for that first aid kit!) Although it felt like forever, the entire situation lasted less than 30 seconds. Thirty seconds! But it was the worst 30 seconds of my life.  

RELATED: 10 Water Safety Tips From a Mom Who Investigates Drownings

After it happened, we were all in a little bit of shock. We later learned that when we told our son to come in, he began to swim toward us but the riptide quickly pulled him out, and even though he could touch, the current was too strong to allow him to stand. He tried so hard to get to us, but it pulled him out so quickly and so forcefully he didn’t have a chance. Thank God we were able to get to him.

My husband can’t recall much of what happened. He says he doesn’t even remember coming to shore. Our brains have a way of protecting us from things like this, I think. The only thing he remembers is losing sight of our son and finally getting to him. Lord, thank you for protecting my husband and my child!

As we processed what had happened later that night, my son said, “Mom, I don’t want to talk about it. I just don’t want to relive it. But I can’t stop thinking about it.” That’s the perfect way to describe how we all felt. We just didn’t want to relive it ever, and we don’t want anyone else to either. But, as with all things in life, God has a plan, and a purpose, so we decided that God needs us to tell this story. My son requested I share his words with all of you so hopefully, no one ever has to go through what we did. 

Never let your guard down or underestimate the strength and power of the water or the quickness of those undercurrents.

The images in my head are ones I wish I could forget but they are burned in my mind forever. I hope no one has to ever have those thoughts and pictures in their memory.  I am so thankful most of those images have been taken from my husband’s mind because he shouldn’t have to keep those. He did everything he needed to do without thinking of himself for one second. He is our hero!   

To all those dads out there who would put themselves in between the crashing waves of the ocean and jagged sharp rocks just to protect their child, we love you. We always knew we had a good one, but as my son says, “He is the best daddy in the whole world!” And I agree!  

Learn about rip currents and how to safely escape them from the National Ocean Service here

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Gina Marie Bonifas

I am a wife and mother of four boys. Our world is usually loud and filled with dirt and a bit chaotic, but in every moment we try to find the joy, the beauty, and the memories. This is our story!

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