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Column: She was just a few feet from shore when she went under
Shannon Casas
Shannon Casas

My husband walked quickly down the crowded grandstands at Lake Lanier Olympic Park.

I could tell he was concerned. 

We were there with friends for the June Food Truck Friday, enjoying food, drinks and conversation. Our boys were playing in the water just off the shore. Behind them in the water was a girl. 

She would surface and then go back under. I saw her face surface. But something wasn’t right. 

My husband stood at the edge asking our boys if she was OK. 

A friend standing next to me in the grandstands yelled his name. The girl was not OK. He walked into the water. 

Some of the hundreds gathered on those grandstands facing the lake began to turn their attention toward what was happening in the water.

My husband was walking, fully clothed into the lake. 

It became more obvious that something really was wrong. I ran down the grandstands.

My husband was soon in water over his head, just a few feet off the shore. 

The girl was under the water.

He couldn’t see her. He couldn’t feel her. He kicked around trying to find her in that murky lake. His foot hit her and he struggled to pull her to the surface, still unable to touch the bottom of the lake himself. Two others had walked into the lake by this point, and he was able to pass her to them. He was exhausted from the effort of pulling her up.

They walked slowly with the girl in between them, her arms draped over their shoulders. She was white, eyes vacant, lips black.

They got her to shore, laid her down and a small crowd gathered around her. Some shouted at others to back away. I shouted I was certified in CPR. Soon someone ran up saying he was a doctor. Meanwhile others had called 911.

I think she was barely breathing. I couldn’t get close. 

The paramedics rushed in, and finally it felt someone was in charge — that whatever needed to be done would be done.

We backed away. A few people sitting up front commended my husband. We walked back up the grandstands, and he sat down, visibly shaken and soaking wet. Our boys and their friends sat in a row on the grandstands quiet. A friend went to get a few towels. 

We were all shaken and trying to process what had just happened. What could have happened.

We left shortly after, and I stopped to ask an officer if she was OK. He said yes. I got a message later that night that she was home safe with her family — news I shared with the others in our group that night.

In my career at The Times, we’ve published drowning story after drowning story. 

This was so nearly one of those stories. 

A minute later, and I don’t know if she would have been found in time — if they wouldn’t have had to call the dive team in to search with their equipment instead of my husband searching with his feet. If circumstances had been different I don’t know that he wouldn’t have been pulled under, too.

I know visibility is low in that lake. Now I know just how low and how quickly someone can get lost in those waters.

Thank God my husband was watching. That our friend yelled his name. That others walked out in the lake to meet him. That paramedics were nearby and ran in to take charge of the situation. 

Thank God she is OK.

She was just a few feet off shore in front of hundreds of people. 

Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a North Hall resident.