I believe in Brotherhood. I’ve always believed in this; growing up with my brother, Per-Lars, as my best friend and the Martin brothers (Preben, Kaj, and Knud) as my constant companions during my childhood years on Vashon Island. We all met at the county dump with our parents when we were little—swapping used K2 skis and trading piggy back rides from our parents. We’ve been a sort of an extended family since then, meeting each year for Christmas, summer barbecues, and many other occasions.
But my belief in Brotherhood never really sank in until the boat sank. Let me clarify. It wasn’t until after the boat went down and we swam in that I came to the realization: We have to take care of each other. Now, then, forever.
“Help!” is the first thing I heard. Then there was nothing. Nothing but freezing water, waves, cold screams, strewn purses, people and flotation devices. All in a moment. Sometimes, I’m finding that’s all we have.
Our boat was too small, the swells were too big, but none of the causes mattered anymore. Living mattered.
The boat was gone, we were floating, and it was nearly dark. It was cold and wet. I heard tomorrow’s radio report, saw the newspaper headlines: “Six Young Vashon Islanders Drown in the Puget Sound.”
“Take off your clothes!” Preben Martin’s directions took me back to the present. He was waiting for me on his floating seat cover. “Now kick! KICK!” he repeated before swimming off to save his girlfriend, Nicole.
“Are we going to make it in?” I asked him.
Turning around he replied, “Yes! Yes, we’ll make it in.”
The waves crashed on my confidence, but I searched the waters for serenity. I found it in a rhythmic kick and consistent yells from my brother, Per-Lars, just ahead of me.
“Yeah, I’m here!”
“Still here! Still kicking.”
I don’t know if you can comprehend how helpful this communication was.
It repeated like this until I passed him up, then we switched roles:
Meanwhile, Cassie swam ahead with Leslie behind her, their swim team skills saving their (and our) lives. Preben and Nicole were next, with Preben soon running along the beach, naked, helping Per-Lars and me off the barnacled rocks that we landed on. Tacoma citizens on the waterfront heard our screams and came, supplied with sweatshirts and cell phones to call 911. I may never see these people again, but thank you, thank you, thank you.
The fire-truck wasn’t much warmer, or that’s what I thought anyway. We stripped down and put on these jumpsuits.
“I’m so frigging cold!” I couldn’t help myself. “I’m so cold! So frigging cold!” And I wasn’t warming up.
“You need to warm each other up!” the firemen instructed. So we hugged each other. Hugged each other and waited for some sign of warmth.
I did warm up, and I’m still warm now, wearing two sweatshirts even when it’s not very cold outside. I never want to be cold again. I never want to forget each moment I’m alive. I never want to take my brother, my friends, my family, and this life for granted. We’re all in this together and we need each other. And my world is all the more richer because of it.