Manual Escaping the Fear - My Story of Survival

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My Story of Survival: Battling PTSD | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA
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  2. Tales from Auschwitz: survivor stories
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Refugees don’t need our tears. They need us to stop making them refugees | Anders Lustgarten

We were enjoying crashing into the waves. Occasionally, I would dive under a wave and ride the next swell back into the beach. I remember diving under a wave and coming back up and thinking that the water had grown very calm. I looked over my shoulder and thought to myself that I was further out than what I felt comfortable with. I looked back to the sea, so I wouldn't get pounded by the next wave, and then back to the beach. In that short time I had been pulled further out to sea and I could see everyone on the beach getting smaller.

I was scared but I did not panic. I waved my hands over my head and yelled for help. I knew I was still getting pulled out and that I would need help to survive. I looked up to God and asked for his help because I did not want to die. On the beach, the rest of my family got the kids out of the water and called One of our friends donned a life vest and swam out to me. I am 45 years old and a good swimmer.

During basic training in the Navy many years ago I learned how to float and how to tread water. I was fortunate on many levels that day, I did not panic and one of our friends happened to have life vest because he had brought his sea kayak to the beach.

Our family was probably most fortunate because it was me who was pulled out to sea and not one of our kids. My advice to others is to swim in protected waters and to bring a couple of life vests down to the shore with you just in case you need them. I was caught in a rip current recently and lived thanks to NWS materials.

We benefited from the Break the Grip of the Rip campaign and the materials put out by the Eena Project in the Outer Banks in a couple of ways. From the materials left in our beach house packet and the magnet on the fridge, I did remember that we needed to swim parallel to the shore--we had been teaching my nephews that earlier in the trip since they don't swim in the ocean that much. What really saved us was remembering the instruction to wave your arm to get help.

Tales from Auschwitz: survivor stories

I did that in a big way and know that was what brought people to us. I think the beaches where we were would have benefited from more signs like I've seen on other beaches. It was the day before they evacuated the beach because Cape Fear was in the path of a hurricane eye. The seas were higher than normal, but still very swimable. I grew up swimming in the ocean and am very comfortable in it.

I know about rip currents and fortunately, had learned what to do if I ever got caught. One of my favorite past times in the ocean is diving under breakers and floating over swells. That afternoon, I dove under a wave as I have done countless times, but when I surfaced and looked back over my shoulder, I was way out from the shore. I knew immediately what had happened. I tried swimming parallel to the shore, but was still in a very strong current and began to tire quickly.

Then a wave broke over my head, and I felt the panic rising. I know that panic is one's worst enemy in the water, so I floated and treaded water for a few minutes to catch my breath and relax. I could see my family on the shore trying to spot me in the water, but the swells were too big for them to see me waving. Once when I looked out to sea to keep an eye on the swells so I wouldn't be caught unawares again, I realized that just a little further out, there were surfers. Suddenly the light bulb went off in my head.

Instead of trying to make it back to shore on my own, I turned and swam further out to where they were. I told them what had happened and asked if one of them would allow me to accompany him into shore using his board as a boogie board for both of us. Of course, one of them agreed.

The biology of fear- and anxiety-related behaviors

It took both of us to get far enough away from the current so we could paddle back into shore. I feel very fortunate that I recognized what had happened, knew not to panic, and was able to find a solution. Every kid who swims in the ocean should be taught this so you will have an endless supply of , not a list of death statistics. As for myself, I still love the ocean and swim in it every chance I get.

He was riding the waves in and I was just enjoying the cool water as it had been so hot. After being in the water for about 40 minutes I noticed all the waves had gone. We turned our heads to see who she was yelling to and saw this 10 year old boy in distress. Ryan swam toward him and got to him after about his 3rd time going down. He was under water so Ryan went under and pushed him to the top. I arrived a few seconds later and grabbed the boy at which point he tried to climb on top of me. By this time the people on shore were gathering and, getting smaller.

I had a hold of the boy and began swimming, to no avail, back to shore. I swam as hard as I could for what seemed like forever but was probably 5 to 7 minutes. My dad and I were boogie-boarding on a warm day in the Florida winter. With very few swimmers due to the colder water, there were no lifeguards with exception of a rescue-jeep that passed by infrequently. The only other swimmers in the area were two young children a bit closer to shore. Within an instant, my dad and I noticed we were much further out from shore than we had been all day and decided to head in pronto. As we were attempting to come ashore, we heard the two kids screaming for help.

We went to help and managed to each get a kid on our board. Within seconds, my dad and the kid with him had already drifted quite further away from me and towards shore. I was able to somewhat calm the girl on my board by insisting we were floating with our heads above water and that her younger brother was safe, too, on my dad's board. Not knowing what to do, I made one attempt to swim hard straight in--it did little good.

My next move was to head for the breaking waves and ride them in. Fortunately, a few minutes later, I waved down a surfer who came over and then helped guide us in and then went back to help my dad and the boy on his board. The boogie boards we had really saved us by enabling us to remain calm, knowing at least we were floating and could breathe. This allowed us to buy time to slowly make it in to shore and signal for help.

I've since learned how to better handle a rip current and take rip current signs far more seriously. My advice to other average swimmers is to have something with you that floats when swimming in unfamiliar waters and don't underestimate the potential dangers of the water. While my dad and I were not in a great situation ourselves, it was clear that the two children nearby urgently needed help and could easily have drowned. They were extremely panicked because they found themselves in water too difficult to swim in on their own.

My experience with rip currents is first hand. At the age of 11, I was swimming off the Florida Coast, near Key Biscayne, and found myself carried into deep water. I tried to swim toward shore but to no avail. After being pulled under the water once, I called for help. Fortunately, an experienced swimmer pulled me to safety.

Following this event, I took lessons through the Red Cross swimming program. While the program helped me improve my swimming ability, it did not offer much insight on handling what we called "undertows" rip currents. Nevertheless, the training did pay off two years later, when I had the chance to save a man who was trapped in a rip current, again off Florida's east coast. I noticed him struggling in the water and crying out for help. I swam behind him and managed to push him at an angle toward the shore. He told me he couldn't swim but found himself drawn into deeper and deeper water.

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It is my hope that you take these safety rules and the dangers of rip currents to heart. If you do so, your trips to the coast should be pleasant, enjoyable and safe for you, your family and friends. He was 19 years old. His friend helplessly watched him drown after the exhaustion of fighting the current to save his own life.

I tell him every chance I get, that he did the right thing staying on the beach and getting help. Of course, he feels extremely guilty for not going back in the water to save him, something he could not physically do. Instead he did the best thing possible, yell for help. An experienced surfer was just coming in for the day because the waves were so rough and risked his own life to try rescue my son.

It took everything within him to pull his body up onto his surfboard and maneuver his way back up to shore. When they reached the beach, he began CPR; however, it was only seconds before paramedics arrived.

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I don't really know how long my son was in the water but I can imagine the difficulty the surfer experienced while fighting the current to reach him. He had already drowned when he reached his lifeless body. I thank God every day for that surfer. He brought my son's body back to me.

He could have been washed out to sea and I would not have had the chance to bring him home for a proper burial. Josh grew up in Indiana and we frequently visited Florida, as many other Hoosiers do. Josh died November 13, He was fulfilling his dream, living five blocks from the beach, appreciating the beauty of the ocean every day.

He loved the water and he was a great swimmer. Unfortunately, living far from the ocean, he was never taught about rip currents. I'm now trying to raise rip current awareness in my state so that no one else loses their life. I'm told over half of the deaths from rip currents are people from the Midwest. This is all the more reason to raise awareness. Everyone should know how to escape from a rip current. We teach our children what to do if caught in a tornado because we see a lot of them in the state of Indiana.

Why do we not teach them about rip currents? Is it because we don't have any water here? I don't know the answer but I'm doing everything in my power to change it. If you talk to people here, they don't even know what a rip current is, much less how to save their own life if caught in one. I'm starting with the high schools around spring break time. It's the perfect opportunity to help spread awareness. All of the kids flock to the beaches during vacation.

They all relate to my son's story and realize that this can happen to them. My goal is to reach the entire Midwest through our school systems. John Lane, the heroic surfer who risked his life to bring me my son's body, gave me the gift of being able to tell my son good-bye and kiss one last time. Tell everyone you know about rip currents and their potential dangers of taking a life. Help me in raising awareness, no matter where you live.

I hope no one else has to say that kind of goodbye. Michael earned his Eagle Scout three weeks before he drowned. He and his father loved to travel. Michael loved the beach. Rip currents developed suddenly placing several people in peril. Michael was swept away. His body washed ashore two and a half blocks from where he disappeared. In honor of their son's memory and to help prevent what happen to their son from happening to others, Carl and Susan Johnson work closely with the Boy Scouts and the Dewey Beach Patrol educating the Scouts in water safety and rescue techniques.

NWS notes that while we celebrate teaching live saving skills and heroic actions, even adults who are strong swimmers have died trying to save rip currents victims. Always swim on a beach with a life guard and let the life guard perform the rescue. When not on a protected beach, yell out to the person caught in the rip to swim parellel to the shore. Do NOT attempt a rescue if you are not a trained life guard. Gabi and her brother Kam are good swimmers but Gabi panicked and was fighting the current. Kam grabbed his boogie board and swam out to her, for roughly 30 yards, and brought her back to the beach.

Kam was 6 years old at the time. The Heroism Award is awarded to a youth member or adult leader who has demonstrated heroism and skill in saving or attempting to save life at minimum risk to self. First awarded in , only of these awards have been given in We are pretty sure that Kam is one of the youngest Scouts to receive this award. As I am writing this, I am laying awake in bed, thanking God for saving me, my 11 year old son, and my fiance from drowning this afternoon.

It was a beautiful, sunny day today and being that we live 2 blocks from the beach, we decided to take advantage of such a lovely afternoon. Around 4 pm, we took a walk down to the beach and went into the water. My son had his boogie board, and he and my fiance were going in search of some nice waves to ride. I noticed quickly that the waves were pulling me down beach and away from the lifeguard stand fairly quickly.

I kept telling my son to walk back toward the lifeguard stand so that they would be able to keep an eye on him. We all made it back in view of the lifeguard stand. Not feeling in danger, we continued swimming and began swimming straight out into the ocean. We were all together when I noticed that we were at the end of the fishing pier, which is pretty far out.

I mentioned this to my fiance and then realized that my feet were no longer touching the ocean floor. My fiance then said to me "I am being pulled backwards. I tried my hardest to swim away from the current but it was too strong. Waves started crashing over me and I couldn't catch my breath. Just then a wave came and my fiance pushed my son who was on his boogie board towards me. I grabbed the board and was going to try to flag down the lifeguard when, just then, my feet were able to touch the ocean floor.

We were stuck out in the current for only about 7 minutes but it felt like an eternity. I just kept thinking "Oh my God, I might die right now. Thankfully, we all made it out okay but it scared me to death. I can't even sleep tonight and am not sure whether or not I will be going into the ocean anytime soon.

I told the lifeguard how bad the current was, and he said he was milliseconds away from jumping in to rescue us. Unfortunately, in our town, we do not have flags that let us know about the currents. I am not sure if we have rip current signs posted anywhere, however I would love to find out how we can get that information out there. I am 36 years old and a pretty good swimmer, but today was the scariest day of my life and reminded me to respect the ocean. When we got home I had my son watch your video on how to swim out of rip currents.

Thank you for all you do in raising awareness on such an important topic. It was early fall of and my husband and I were down for a weekend at Gulfshores, Alabama with my sister and her boyfriend. It was our first afternoon there and I had seen how bad the tides were and decided not to go in the water; however my sister had another idea when she arrived. Without a care in the world and no regard to the wave action, she plunges in and took her boyfriend with her. Upon my realization she was in the water, I got to the beach in time to see her floating out and her boyfriend trying to make it to shore.

I jumped in to swim out to my sister and before long, I felt the rip tide. There was no bottom left to the sea floor. I tried in vain to reach for my sister, who was struggling to swim towards the beach. I myself was stuck and could not swim inward. My husband pulled me from the tide and upon getting to shore, I ran for more help. It took 4 very strong young men to pull my sister in. From there we were sent to Buna an Auschwitz sub camp and were set to work. After a few months there, I went for a walk one day and saw a few tomatoes growing.

I still have the scars from it today. I was 20, about 1. When my limit in the hospital was up, they sent me to the gas chambers. There I met Dr Mengele, who asked me what was wrong. As I had trained as a tailor, he decided I had my uses there. It meant that being a tailor saved my life. A complete fake of a man who I was too scared to look in the eye. One of the experiments he carried out on me was to take blood from my arm and inject it in my rear end.

In we were sent on a death march from Birkenau to Oranienburg and from there to Buchenwald. Then to a quarry, where we were ordered to drill into the mountains to make some sort of secret city. From there we walked back to Buchenwald. Whoever was incapable of walking was shot. From there, big trains took us to Theresienstadt just as the Soviets were bombing the rails. We could sense that the Germans were almost destroyed. For 17 days we had no water, no food, nothing. Despite the hardship I was doing OK compared to others. I still had the capability to clamber on to the cattle trains without help.

We were liberated from the Russians at Theresienstadt on 9 May. I developed typhus and spent several weeks in hospital before I could go anywhere. I decided to go back to my village as I had nowhere else to go. But of the 1, or so of us who had been deported, only eight to 10 had survived. She and her husband had been the only couple in Czemierniki to survive and then they went and murdered her when she came home.

I had had parents, two brothers, three sisters, two nephews, two nieces, an aunt, an uncle, and all of them died. I found out the rest of my family were taken to Treblinka in When I finally returned to Czemierniki in , despite the years in which Jews had lived there I could not find a trace either of my family or of Jewish life.

Even the cemetery where my grandfather had been buried had been razed.

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The synagogue was gone. I went to ask the local priest, who said they had taken the tombstones and crushed them for building materials or something like that. I believe they deliberately destroyed any sign of Jewish life so as to be rid of us for ever. The Jewish Federation brought me to America. I deliberately chose against going to Israel as it would have meant I would have had to fight and kill and the US seemed the next best choice.

They put me up in a hotel on 35th and 36th street until I got myself sorted out. I was desperate to get to work and make up for all those wasted years. Of the 1, Jews taken from my village, only three of us are still alive, one living in Israel, one in Baltimore and myself. We stay in touch. I still drive my car, though not at night any more. I have to go back to Auschwitz one last time. I feel like I own the place, having spent almost two years of my life there. I was not even two when we arrived at Auschwitz in I have no conscious memories of that time, but plenty of subconscious ones.

My mother told me later how when they tattooed my arm with a needle, it was so painful that I passed out. The number they gave me and that I still have was A I was probably the youngest child to have been tattooed who survived. Had we arrived just two days earlier, we would have been gassed immediately. Our transport was the first from which no one was taken to the gas chambers, probably because they knew by then that the Russians were very close.

We arrived on 2 November and on 30 October, 18, mothers and children who had arrived from Theresienstadt were killed. I can feel the burnt earth everywhere I walk. When Auschwitz was liberated in January , we were already extremely sick, so we had to stay there. A Jewish paediatrician from Prague said my mother and her baby would not survive. She had rickets, TB and jaundice. But in April, against the odds, my mother gave birth to my sister, helped by prisoners who were doctors. My mother never talked very much about our time there, mainly to protect us and herself.

She was 21 when we were finally able to leave, with a two-year-old and a six-week-old. She also took with us a four-year-old boy who was parentless and she spent months searching for his relatives, who she did finally track down. At the same time, she had lost her husband and was mourning him.

There was an unspoken ban on speaking about any of it. There was a frantic search to see who had survived and to look for relatives. But none of our relatives were still alive. Only much later could I recognise what a miracle it really was that I had survived, when I learned that of the thousands of Slovak men and women who were deported to Auschwitz, only a few hundred returned. My mother put every effort into giving us a normal life. She sent us to school and made sure we studied.

She was loving and resourceful. It was only later when she got old that she was gripped by depression. Having held everything together and been so capable and diligent for so long, she just fell apart as if under the burden of it all, and she died at the age of I later qualified as a psychotherapist, a job which I enjoy immensely, but which confronts me with the suffering caused by the Holocaust on a daily basis. It will be the last time many people return, the end of an epoch.

The wounds might heal, but they leave scars which are still very visible. From the moment I arrived in Auschwitz with my mother and brother in May , the terror of it just invaded my whole being. My mother was immediately taken away and I later learned that she had been gassed. I only recently discovered that my father had been there too. My whole world was turned upside down by the brutality of it. We had not in any way understood what had been going on, only later recognising all the sources and streams that led to the Holocaust. In my small Hungarian village, information had been very restricted.

We were told by the authorities that we were being resettled, which is why I took my sewing machine with me. I took my sewing machine! The process of losing any kind of hope was a very gradual one.

We were transported in cattle wagons in which many babies and children suffocated, in what it turned out was the last transport of Hungarians. We had no water, no food, there was no hygiene. That diminished our hope and increased the feeling of being trapped. But despite that, you always retained a glimmer of hope.

I had become aware of antisemitism from a young age, when my uncle had his head chopped in two when he was attacked by fascists while driving up to Novograd where he lived. My family had a wood and coal business and, like most people in those days, my father was self-employed. As they started to restrict us, he lost his licence to operate and then he faced the enormous task of trying to find work. Meanwhile, my mother was at home trying to keep the family together, with all of us all involved in domestic life.

I recall the time in Auschwitz as single moments, short encounters, smells. We tried to distract ourselves from the reality of it by trying to recall our home lives in what turned into a game of momentary escapism. I vaguely recall the death march to Bergen-Belsen. I was so weak by then.

Our British liberators were amazing — they were heroes for me in the real sense of the word. After their long battle to reach Belsen, they had a campaign to organise a rescue mission. They brought little ambulances in and drove around picking us up. I was trembling and virtually lifeless, lying near the barracks, the stench of corpses everywhere, and unable to walk or lift myself up, when they arrived with a little ambulance. After our liberation I went to Sweden where we were looked after marvellously.

When the ship set off, we were worried about the engines breaking down, but we soon realised the biggest problem was the waves. All I could do was say my last prayer — I felt like I was dead already. This was in , but now there are many more people camped on the Libyan coast, waiting for their turn. All of Europe has a responsibility to stop people from drowning. Italy is doing so much to help save refugees and it needs support. Countries such as Britain, France, Belgium and Germany think they are far away and not responsible, but they all took part in colonising Africa.

Nato took part in the war in Libya. After the helicopter found our boat, we were taken by an Italian ship to Lampedusa , where we were locked in a reception centre that looked like a prison. Italy is in crisis, and millions of its own citizens have left to find work in northern Europe, so I thought I would do the same. I went to Berlin. The Dublin treaty means refugees are usually forced to stay in the country where they arrive.

I ran out of money and ended up living on the street, at a camp where refugees were fighting for the right to live and work in Germany.