gentlemen," the pilot's voice came over the intercom of the DC-6,
"we have engine trouble. We are going down. The are life
preservers are beneath your seats. Please put them on, but don't
inflate them at this time. When they are secure, please fasten
your seat belts and prepare for a landing in the sea. The stewardess
will come back with life jackets for the children and see that they
are fitted. We are always prepared for such emergencies.
The sea is a little rough, but the plane should stay afloat long
enough for us to transfer to the life rafts. The worst you can
expect is possibly a little seasickness. I have notified the
Philippines, and help is already on the way. It will arrive in
a short time. There is no reason to panic. Please stay
calm, and stay in your seats until the stewardess directs you to
prepare to leave the plane. That will help to speed the
evacuation. Thank you."
"You're a big boy."
The stewardess handed me a life jacket. "Can you put this on?
It goes on just like a vest and fastens in front. I'll check
it when I am through with the younger ones."
"Sure. I don't
need any help." I slipped into it and buckled my seat
belt, ready for the crash. I was terribly frightened but
elated at the same time. I would have a fantastic story to
tell my class when we returned to school. After all, didn't
the pilot say they did this all the time? A long boring plane
ride had just become exciting.
I looked across the
aisle at my little brother, Jamie, sitting beside my mother. I
could see he was scared, but not as much as Mother. She sat
calmly praying, but I could see her crying and shaking. Then I
looked up at Dad sitting between the window and me. He
was looking out the window. I knew he was praying too.
My parents were
missionaries to the Philippines. We were on our way to the
States for a long awaited vacation. We had been in the islands
four years. I could hardly remember my grandparents, but I did
remember my fifth birthday at their house a few weeks before we
left, and I could remember their big Saint Bernard, Queenie. I
was really excited about going home. It did not seem like home
to me, but that is what we always called it. I would have such
an awesome story to tell. I probably would not have to wait to
go back to school. All the kids would flock around Jamie and
me to hear the story. It would surely help to make new
The sea is coming up
fast." Dad put his arm around me and pulled me close to him to
protect me. I felt safe with his big arm around me.
Nothing can hurt me now.
"We are in your
hands, Lord." I heard my mother whisper as she pulled Jamie close to
her. "Do whatever you will with us, but please save the
children." She kissed my brother on the head and looked at me.
"I love you, Timmy."
"I love you too,
Mom." I smiled and snuggled closer to Dad. "God will
take care of us. You'll see. I love you too, Dad, and
He did not answer.
He just squeezed me really tightly and pulled me forward as the
plane splashed through the top of a wave and then another and
another. Then suddenly, it seemed like we hit a solid wall as
the plane dove nose first into the sea. I heard a scream from
the cockpit, and water started rushing back into the cabin.
Then the tail came down with a hard bang. There was a lot of
screaming in the back. I wondered if anyone was badly hurt.
As soon as the tail
came down, the stewardesses started back toward the emergency doors
over the wings. "Ladies and gentlemen, please remain in your seats,
and do not panic. That would only hinder the orderly deplaning.
We have plenty of time. The plane should float for several
minutes, possibly as much as an hour. Let's get the children
out first. Their parents will accompany them.
She opened the escape
hatch in front of Mrs. Jennings' seat, and Mrs. Jennings led her
three girls onto the wing. "Take Sarah's hand, Jamie, and you
take his, Timmy. Your parents will be right behind you."
Mr. Jennings stepped into the aisle and guided us through the
Everything seemed all
right, but just after I had stepped onto the wing, I heard a
horrifying scream. A big wave broke over the wing. It
hit me like a freight train! I was in the water, rolling over,
and over, and over, and over, and over. I could not breath.
The water was all around me. I tried to scream for help, but I
could not scream. I tried to cry because I hurt so badly, but
I could not cry. I just rolled over, and over, and over again.
I'm drowning! I thought. Please, God, don't
let me die! I'm too young to die! But I continued to roll
over and over and over again in the angry sea.
Then as suddenly as
the wave had hit me, I was bobbing on top of the water choking and
coughing, trying to get the water out of my lungs and some air into
them. When I finally got my breath, I looked around. I
was all alone. Mrs. Jennings, the girls, Jamie, the plane,
they were all gone. I could not see anything but water.
Water. Water everywhere! Nothing else! No one else
for miles and miles! I was alone! All alone!!! I
was frantic. I screamed. I yelled. I called for
someone to help. Anyone. But there was no one. I
was all alone in the monstrous sea.
I had always been
taught to pray when I was in trouble and did not know what to do.
Naturally I prayed, "God, I thank you for saving me from that big
wave. Now, please! Save me from the sea! Let the
others be saved also! And please help me to find them!"
A strange calmness settled over me. I knew I would be all
Then I thought I
heard someone cry out. I turned and looked in the direction of
the sound, but I could see nothing. The sun was down. It
was getting dark, but I was sure there was nothing out there.
Then, it came again. This time it was closer. It sounded
like Jamie. "Jam--Ouch!" I cried. It felt like
someone had hit me in the hip with a baseball bat, and I was rushing
through the water. I must have been pushed for five minutes;
then, I was still again, but not for long. Bam! I was
hit again! This time in the stomach. It almost knocked
the breath out of me. I was rushing backward through the
water. I heard another scream! I knew I did! It
was a girl! One of the Jennings girls must be out here
somewhere. Another scream! That was Jamie
for sure! Another baseball bat hit me, and I realized that
a dolphin was hitting me and pushing me through the water. I had
heard how dolphins sometimes rescue people from the sea, but,
Ouch! Do they have to hit so hard? The screams and
crying of the others were getting closer. I knew they could
hear me when the dolphins hit me. They were bringing us all
together. "Don't be afraid," I yelled at them as loud as I
could. "They're dolphins! They're saving us!"
But they hurt!
Bad!" Came the answer. It was a girl's voice.
That must be
Sarah. "Is that you, Sarah? Ouch!" Another dolphin
hit me. Another scream! "Is that you Jamie?"
things are going to kill us!"
"No they won't.
Thank God they're here. They are taking us to land."
"Debbie, is that
you?" I knew that was Sarah's voice.
Where are you? Help me!"
"That was Julie!"
Momma! Mommy!" A chorus of voices shouted, but there was
Again, and again, and
again, we called for our mothers; but still, there was no answer.
mother's prayer had been answered. All five children on the
plane were still alive, but what about the grownups? What
happened to the plane? Did it sink when that big wave hit? or
is it still out there somewhere?
I decided it had gone down when the wave rushed over the wing.
But why didn't the
dolphins save Mrs. Jennings? She seemed to be so
nice. We had met them in the airport in Manila while we were
waiting for the plane. We children had played while our
parents chatted. Everyone had enjoyed the chance meeting.
The hitting, and
bruising, and screaming, and crying, and calling to one another,
along with an occasional dunking and rolling in the water until we
thought we were going to drown continued through the night.
The hours dragged. I was sure every bone in my body was
broken. Drowning would have been better than being beaten to
We will never know
how far the dolphins pushed us, but we were pushed from dusk until
the first rays of the dawn. Then I felt terrible pain in my
right leg, as if I had cut it on a sharp rock. The pain
was terrible! I realized that meant we were in shallow water.
I tried to stand up and found the sand with my feet, but I could not
stand. The dolphin must have sensed it, because he gave me a
final nudge, and I was lying on the beach when the wave went out.
The next one tried to take me back, but I hung on, crawled up onto
the beach, and slept.
Leonard H. Hall, Sr.