On July 4th, who wouldn't be excited to celebrate festivities honoring our land of the free? A tumultuous day in Emerald Isle, North Carolina changed all that, ingraining a painful memory that cannot be erased, but is vital when one asks about an event that made you “stronger”. In other words, this day defined me in more ways than one, as well as opened my eyes to those around me and see that not all help is in the forms we think it to be. The sweltering heat made my mouth dry and my throat itch, but we continued to trek along the narrow, sandy pathway between the dunes to the beach. I would much rather be at the beach house with my mother, we would have been perfectly content sitting by the pool at the house, maybe reading and drinking a cool glass of lemonade. Wisps of loose hair from my ponytail began whipping my face in the seemingly increasing strength of the winds. Aunt Suzanne commented on how this weather is likely due to the approaching tropical storm expected in a few days. The waves, almost as if agreeing with her, concocted an exceptionally large wave that came crashing down on my cousins who attempted to ride it into the shore on their boogie boards. After attempting a short nap by covering my head in my towel, and getting mediocre results, I decided to ride some of the waves with a boogie board. I was the only cousin who hasn't gone out yet, and they have all just returned to eat and rest from the rough current that had depleted their energy. I went out by myself, but not too far, always staying in sight of the beach should the waves pick up their attack. The sun was beginning its descent beyond the horizon, showering small shadows every which way as the orange and red hues gave off a cozy light. I follow my cousins out as far as I could, but in comparison to the rest of them, I'm rather small. I went as far as my legs could go without lifting my feet from the bottom unless I had to leap over a wave. I saw a large wave coming, looking larger than the rest and decided maybe it was time to call it quits for the day. In my attempt to flee, I rode a wave in but failed. The wave and current took me down farther along the stretch of beach. I resurfaced, but then realized that more waves were coming…and I can't touch the ground. I kept pushing forward to the beach, but panic slowly started to seep in. Almost as if a switch had been turned on, the waves kept coming, but at a more powerful impact and the current was rougher than before, pulling me back into the depths of the ocean with newfound vigor. I called out for help, but everyone at our little beach camp was turned away in a deep conversation, as well as being too far away for my pleas to be heard. The beach I was on was practically deserted with no beachgoers, and no lifeguards either making it all the more dangerous. I still have the boogie board attached to my wrist and am desperately struggling against the treacherous current trying to make my way back to shore. My feet dig into the too-soft sand beneath me, to get some form of footing. After another wave crashes over me as soon as my head resurfaces, I realize the only way I'll get out of this is if I fight my way out of the current and back to the beach. The pain and fear inside me reside and are replaced by the distinct survival instinct in which everything else around me is tuned out until I am safely in knee-deep water. I don't stop though, because in my mind I could still be swept away if I give up at this moment, and so I carry on until I collapse at the edge of the water, visibly out of breath. When I come back breathing heavily, I explain as best as I can what happened. Much to my dismay, a shocking majority of my cousins and aunts move on quite quickly from the event. Maybe I expected them to be a bit more sympathetic, considering they almost lost me. I start crying after the whole event finally settles in my head, which in turn makes my mother get teary as well. She tells me that they only had their heads turned for a second, but so much happened in that time frame. We start on our way home and I turn around for one last look at the ocean for the day, seagulls soaring over the ocean waves as they crash against each other, creating a calm lullaby leading one to believe the waves aren't as dangerous as they seem. Who would have thought that the day we as a nation proclaimed our freedom, it could be taken away from me so suddenly? I learned the lesson that to find your inner strength, there are times when you can rely on those around you, but eventually, you will need to fight for yourself and that at times only you can be the one to save yourself. Sometimes I think that God may have had a part in my survival, halting the waves and current just for a moment to allow myself to flee. There isn't evidence or any way I can prove it, but that evening, my mind couldn't help but wonder if He did help me out, and if He did, I am forever grateful to God.