Drowning in Panic

By , park ridge, IL

I was only 9, but I remember it like it was yesterday. My dad was smoothly driving on a highway in Tennessee when my parents suddenly told me we were going whitewater rafting. I panicked and did not like the idea of rafting on dangerously flowing rapids.


My family and another family were planning out things to do on our extremely boring 16 hour drive to Hilton Head Island. My dad and mom were thinking of whitewater rafting and I wasn’t liking the idea of that, with me not being the most balanced person at the age of 9. The other idea was to go ziplining , but that idea was turned down after the horrible experience my family  had while we were vacationing in Jaco, Costa Rica.


After I had heard that we going to be whitewater rafting my stomach dropped and I began hyperventilating. I felt as if my world had turned upside down.


All I could think about is about falling off the raft and drowning in the river. I looked up the facts on the death rate on white water rafting and  saw on the website that it said there was a death on the Ocoee River, which was the river we were planning to raft on.


I started freaking out, we went out to a restaurant the night before the rafting was suppose to happen. At the restaurant I couldn’t keep my mind off the fact that I thought I was going to die tomorrow. I couldn’t even talk to anyone about anything. As the night went on I just didn’t speak, at the hotel I tried to go right to sleep, but nothing would put me to sleep.


Morning came faster than I expected and we piled in the shiny red minivan on our way to the Ocoee River. I thought of ways to get out of going on that dreadful dangerous river. As we got closer I felt worse and said to myself ”this was going to be last day I would ever live.” I was hyperventilating again and this time was worse than yesterday's. I panicked and thought of anything that could get me out of this-- I even offered to sit in the hot car for 6 hours and do nothing, but my parents just wouldn’t let me.


Another family and mine walked into the area where the gear was placed for protection when you splash down the river. Looking at the gear made me ask myself why do you need all of this gear.I began to freak out even more than I was a couple hours ago.


A tall employee lead us to another room before we had to put on the gear, the other room was where you were suppose to watch a quick safety video about how to keep you safe from falling into the rapids and dying. There were people everywhere watching the safety video and everyone seemed fine except for me.


I was shaking and nauseous. My breathing started to get slow and slower as the video played. My mind was going insane I was convinced that I would die while rafting. The video showed people falling out the rafts and getting their feet stuck under rocks and drowning; after seeing the guy falling into the river and drowning I was as scared as the sinful on judgement day.


After the safety video finished another employee lead us to a bus. The bus ride would be  a frightful 30 minute drive up to the chilly mountain where we started to start whitewater rafting.


As the  shiny black wheels on the cream white bus turned and the elevation began to get higher, I began to shake again and get nauseous. As we arrived I hesitated to get out of my seat, but I eventually did.


I stepped off the bus with fear throughout my body, from my eyes to my toes, I couldn’t believe that I was about to go put my life at risk for something at parents wanted me to do. All I wanted to do on vacation was to go to the beach and play sports early in the morning, not die on my way to the beach house.


We began walking towards the entrance to the Ocoee River and the sign in front of the entrance had big red words that said ”DANGER”; it also said in fine print ”White Water Rafting Can Cause Serious Injuries or Death.” After reading that  I couldn’t stop looking at the crashing rapids and the passengers on the bright yellow rafts. We got to the top of the river and I began getting more and more nervous, I was as nervous as a cow at a slaughtering plant.


As we got closer and closer to getting in the river  I imagined the video and me in the place of the person who drowned in the Ocoee River.


Four kids and I stepped into a raft and our parents entered a different raft in front of us.


As we drifted off into the rapids my mind became calm, I don’t know what it was, but the water made me feel in a better presence for some really reason. The sound of the waves crashing made me relax as I paddled and fought against the turbulent waves. The waves crashed against against us four fighting not to fall out of the raft. 






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