Big Game Club in Bimini, Bahamas, is home to one of the few deep-water marinas on the small island. Like several spots in Bimini, the Big Game Club boasts hosting the famed author, Earnest Hemingway, as a regular customer back in the day.
The marina is also known for an unusually high number of bull sharks that swim under the docks and boats. The sharks are fed by the locals, and tourists can watch them from a cage secured to the dock – no thanks! Most sharks are around 7-10 feet in length and weigh over 300 pounds. I’m told there are usually 15-17 of these beasts hanging around the marina.
Recently, I went to Bimini on my first “guys trip” in over a decade. One afternoon, Jason Gonzales, a top-notch Tallahassee attorney, and I decided to check out the marina in search of a boat for fishing the next morning. As we walked the docks looking for a captain, I took a few minutes to film the big bull sharks swimming under the docks. The water is crystal clear, and I had a great vantage point from above.
About a minute after I stopped filming, I heard a loud splash in the distance behind me. One dock over, a boy had fallen in the water. He was about 20-feet from a ladder and safety. Knowing sharks were nearby, Jason and I quickly started walking toward him. Suddenly, three dorsal fins popped out of the water and headed straight toward the boy, who was only about five feet from the ladder. Jason and I began to run as fast as we could toward him. As the sharks zeroed in on their target, one jumped out of the water, thrashed his tail and the boy completely disappeared from view. It was horrifying.
After what seemed like an eternity, the boy emerged from the depths. He was treading water and screaming, “Help me, help me!” I yelled at the top of my lungs, “Swim to the ladder, don’t stop, swim to the ladder,” while running toward him. The boy made it up the ladder and out of the water just as we arrived. Jason helped him onto the dock and after looking at his bleeding feet, I told him to sit down. Funny side note – after it was over, one of the locals told me, “Your voice scared the sharks off Mon.”
We shouted for towels and medical help. The boy’s parents arrived, I calmed them down and Jason and I said a prayer for the boy. The people responded and within a few minutes, his feet were wrapped and he was headed to the island clinic. He ended up with 50 stitches in one foot and six stitches in the other. Unbelievably, the boy was expected to be walking within a week of the attack.
It could have been so much worse; I’m thankful it was not. We never saw the boy again except for news articles from around the world reporting the event. Judging by the articles, I don’t think that boy or his family understood there were three bull sharks attacking him. It could have been so much worse.
After the attack, suffice it to say my friend and I needed a soft chair and a strong island concoction. As we sat there recounting the event, one question kept coming up. Would we have jumped into the water with three bull sharks attacking the boy had we been closer?
It’s easy to say, “Of course we would,” but until you’re thrust into the situation, you don’t really know. Had we arrived in time and close enough to jump in to help, I believe we would have. When I recount what was going through my head, contemplating a plan of action, jumping in was definitely one of my thoughts. Another thought running through my mind was, “Man I really do not want to have to jump in with those sharks.”
I can say this with certainty. Those thoughts flew through my mind as if we were running toward a fire. We weren’t waiting for someone else to react or respond to the situation. It was instinctive. Horrifying, but instinctive nonetheless.
Fortunately for us, jumping in was never a viable option because the boy was able to get out before any further damage was done. This experience has helped me understand how those who perform heroic actions often respond by saying, “I’m no hero.” If my experience is any measure, that kind of response is likely because they felt the same horrific feelings I did as I was running to help.
The more I think about it, the more respect it gives me for our first responders, and for our members who care for Florida’s frail elders every day.
Like the firefighter, our members run toward the “fire” to help, whatever that “fire” might be.
We saw that during Hurricane Irma, when caregivers slept in their facilities for days on end until the storm passed and the power returned to make sure their residents were safe. We hear the countless stories of nurses and other staff who, on their own time and with their own money, buy gifts for their residents. Others too, spend holidays with residents who have no family to call their own or continue to visit those individuals long after they’ve been discharged from the facility.
There is an outpouring of love among FHCA member staff and their residents. That was evident from the pictures we received for this year’s Photo Contest. That compassionate care, the dedication and the sacrifices that our members make happens day in and day out, in spite of regulatory burdens, negative press or misguided legislation being filed.
FHCA members run toward all types of “fires” every day. And they do it with a fearlessness that is to be admired.
I’m certain you would jump in with sharks; you are true heroes. Thank you all for making lives better, even saving lives, every day.