Water. Rushing past. I heard a strangled cry in the distance. Desperate cries. The sort of anguish that courses through your body and brings chills to my bones. Those wails of absolute devastation were close. Close enough to be saved. I had to rescue those people. The Red Cross on my shirt didn’t argue with my thinking. Risking my own safety and survival to allow others to have theirs. More distressed voices rang out, this time, more children’s voices. I couldn’t bear the sorrow anymore. Reluctantly, I released the faltering grip I had on the thin, rusty pipeline and let myself become one with the flow. If only that sounded as peaceful as it did. My hair whipped forward as my arms were dragged violently against the side of the building. My skin started to burn as the gritty texture of the concrete tore through my skin. As blood started to ooze out, blood trailed out in front of me, and my vision went blurry. My arms went limp, and I squeezed my eyes shut to lessen the pain as the current sucked my head underneath to surface of the water.
Suddenly, I was dragged past an old, beaten-up car. At least I think it was old. I opened my eyes to see the wrinkled hood of a sedan, the hinge of the driver’s side barely hanging onto what was once a sturdy door. Suddenly, the hinge snapped, and the door was sent pummeling toward me. I didn’t have time to react. The door flung toward me so quickly I could see white water bubbles streaming behind it. Spinning through the water as it hit various objects made the path of the metal projectile impossible to predict. Left, right, left. Still, I was frozen in place, unable to process anything with the adrenaline coursing throughout my body. It really should have been the exact opposite; adrenaline was supposed to be like caffeine on steroids. It’s supposed to make someone twice as alert and react twice as fast. Time stood still as I watched the door tumble toward me. I could feel the pressure building, building, as the space between my body and the door diminished. I opened my mouth to scream. I didn’t know what that would have done to help me. It couldn’t help me float to the surface any faster, couldn’t force me to move my body away from the destruction path of the door to avoid being crushed by a hurtling hunk of metal.
Turns out I was wrong. The instant I tried to inhale and scream, I realized I was still underwater. I didn’t know how I spent so much time without realizing I didn’t have any air, but I guess the adrenaline finally kicked in at that moment. I started thrashing in the water, stirring up clouds of bubbles around my body as I struggled to not choke on the water I had just inhaled. Luckily, my body reflexively moved my arms and my legs and pushed up toward the surface, allowing my numbing body to go limp. As I drifted upward all I could pay attention to was the sunlight on the water. How it grazed the surface, allowing light to be distorted and fragmented into beautiful rays and sheets of light; like the aurora borealis of the ocean. I forgot about the troubles of life, the responsibilities. Responsibilities! I had almost forgotten why I allowed myself to risk the guarantee of my survival. For those people, desperate and hopeless people. My head penetrated the surface as I lay gasping for air, head exploding from oxygen deprivation and muscles burning from overuse.
When I finally caught my breath, I focused on the task at hand. I treaded the water beneath me as I located the sound of those pleas for help. After about a minute, I heard them, this time they were much closer than my safety spot before. I willed my aching muscles to doggy-paddle, weaving my way around chunks of bricks, broken glass, and toppled palm trees until I noticed the family. They were trapped under a crumpling piece of roof in what used to be a room, now just a disarray of severed wood, pink insulation fluff and jagged bricks. My body was ready to buckle underneath the strain I was putting on it to drag myself over the family. I don’t give up; I can’t. As a member of the Red Cross volunteer team, I made myself a vow that I would never give up on people who needed me. Looking up, I noticed the look of hope and joy radiate from their faces, and that was enough to push me to keep going. I used pieces of wood to push off of, since my strength was decreasing rapidly. When I finally made it through the sea of house bits, I used my last ounce of strength to propel myself toward the family, arm outstretched.
I felt the relief surge throughout my body as I grasped the smallest child’s hand.