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Unsung heroes are all around us, even at the beach

By: Keith Kappes
Columnist
Carter County Times

We’ve seen and heard much during the pandemic about heroes and they deserve the accolades. But today I am sharing the heroic story of a day at the beach on the Atlantic Ocean that started with a frantic phone call telling me my 13-year-old grandson was trapped in a rip current and being carried out to sea. 

If you have never seen or felt the grip of a rip current, it can be terrifying and overpowering, for even a strong swimmer. 

A “rip” is a powerful, narrow current flowing outward from the beach through the surf zone to the open sea. Without a life jacket or other article to keep them afloat, inexperienced victims of rip currents often drown. 

That’s why we always insist that all of our family members, including the best swimmers, wear life jackets in the ocean. 

All of that information was running through my mind as my wife and I raced the half-mile to the beach where more than a dozen adults and children from our family were enjoying the ocean at Corolla on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. 

By the time we reached the beach, our grandson from Ohio had been rescued by an incredibly-skilled ocean lifeguard who quickly swam out to him and pushed him sideways out of the dangerous current. 

When we caught up with the scared teenager, I was concerned that he might need to be rescued from his very irate father. It seems the lad had discarded his life jacket and gone back to the beach without telling other family members. 

A few hours later, this life-and-death struggle with rip currents was replayed a few yards away when two nine-year-old girls were swept away while swimming without life jackets. 

A father and an uncle tried to save them but they also were caught in the strong current and had to be rescued themselves. In fact, the lifeguards had to save both of the adults to get access to the two frightened and very tired young girls trying to stay afloat. 

The skill and courage of the two lifeguards, two college students from Virginia, were wonders to behold. Every person on that beach was thankful for their heroism, especially two worried grandparents from Morehead, Ky.

Keith Kappes can be reached at keithkappes@gmail.com 

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