The guard, the safety inspector who swam back with me

By Joan Wester Anderson

Jean Hannan Ondracek of Omaha had gone to a spa in the Ozarks with her sister Pat and two girlfriends–young adults enjoying a weekend of fun. Because Jean was the only one who knew how to swim, she decided one Saturday morning to venture into the lake. Her companions planned to stay on shore. “There were other people in the area,” Jean remembers, “but no one very close to our spot on the shore. There were no lifeguards patrolling this section of beach. As far as I knew, I was the only swimmer in the lake.”

The sun was warm. The water refreshing, and time–and distance–passed more quickly than Jean had anticipated. At a point much farther from shore than she had thought–and where the lake was quite deep–Jean suddenly ran out of breath. Shocked, she realized that she did not have enough energy to get herself back to shore. She called and waved frantically, but she could hardly make out the tiny figures on the sand. And no one was looking her way. As her fear increased, Jean realized that she could drown.

“God, help me! Help me!” she prayed aloud. read more

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