By Fausto Hinojosa
Saturday afternoon, July 9, 2011, was one of those warm summer afternoons in The Hamptons. Since my body feels aches and pains, Diana and I have been swimming for many years as we feel rejuvenated afterwards. So this afternoon, we set out to do that. We had to drop off Elyse (our daughter) at the Southampton Library, so we took the opportunity to go to the ocean in Southampton while Elyse was taking a class at the library. We have been swimming mostly in Havens Beach in Sag Harbor, where there are no waves. On this afternoon, we wanted to see the waves and swim in its waters.
We biked to the ocean. Even before we saw the ocean, we heard the loud pop of the waves breaking. I asked Diana, “We are going in those waters?” She made some gesture.
I knew the loud pop spelled danger. Because my back had been very sore recently, I really wanted to swim. Diana and I stood in front of the ocean to study it, when to go in, how big the waves were, which way the current was moving, the cadence of the waves, etc. We stood next to the ocean, longer than we ever have. We knew it was dangerous.
I decided to go in the water while Diana chose not to go in. It was a big mistake. I felt that once I crossed over the area where the waves were breaking, I would be able to swim beyond them, and do so safely, as I’ve done all my life. Such was not the case this time. So I told Diana, “I am going in.” I hurried in, as the waves were breaking quickly. I faced the first wave, it was very large, 10 to 12 feet, I tried to go under it as I have so many times, but this time the undercurrent was the strongest I have ever felt, and I took a tumble that almost knocked me out.
I knew immediately I was in trouble, so I decided to try to get out quickly. I found myself not able to get out. I was in trouble. The strong waves were coming quickly, and there was no way to avoid being taken by them.
The first wave took me about 100 yards east. I tried to flag Diana but she did not see where I was. There was no one on the beach 100 yards away. I knew this was serious. If I could not get Diana to see me in trouble, whose attention could I get? I wondered. And I prayed.
Seeing that I could not get her attention, I panicked for a few seconds. I continued to pray, and parts of those prayers were that I did not want to leave Diana alone. I asked God to spare my life. I told God I was not ready for heaven. I told Him I could not leave Diana in this manner. All the while being taken down by a powerful wave every few seconds.
One of the times I was taken down, I prayed feverishly that God would spare me from hitting my head on the sand. As I prayed that prayer, as I was approaching the bottom, my body got turned around and I gently touched the bottom with my face. It was as though I kissed the sand with the cheek of my face. I felt the soft sand with my face. I knew then that God helped me at that very moment, that He was with me indeed. And He helped me from hitting the bottom of the ocean head first.
I could not believe that each time I came out I had less energy. I worked hard at staying calm and afloat, but the waves were beating me up really bad. I was beginning to lose my breath.
I asked myself, “Who” can I reach here to help me?
As I was praying I noticed two young men, just west of me placing towels on the beach, and walking east on the shore. I said, “There! I have to get their attention.” I was taken down again, but just before I went down, I waved at them the best I could. As I was going down I heard one of them say, “Does that guy need help?”
I came up and I had to make sure they knew I needed help, so I yelled the best I could. As I was going down again I felt they got in the water to help me. One of them reached me and tried to stand me up. I could not stand up. They were not able, and I knew they struggled to drag me out of the water. I was almost gone. I did not have much energy. I felt that one or two more times taken down by the waves was perhaps all I had left. God in His mercy had these young men come to my rescue.
Somehow lifeguards, police and paramedics were there immediately. I then noticed that one of the two young men that pulled me out of the water was Ben Moritz. Not only did God send two able young men, but one that I have known and loved (along with his family) for many years. When they were dragging me out of the ocean, I heard Ben tell his young friend, “This is Fausto. He coached me in soccer. He is from my church!”
Since we had dropped Elyse off at the library, we were to pick her up after our swim. When I saw her, I realized how special and what a miracle had just taken place. I got to see her again. God heard my prayers in time of great danger. I could see my beloved wife Diana again, hug her again, and give Elyse the biggest hug she’s ever felt. I told her that to see her was the sweetest sight. She asked: “What happened!” Somehow she knew something happened. We told her the story.
The following morning I was able to go to church. One of my favorite hymns was being sung. The words in part go as follows: “Give thanks to the Holy One. Give thanks because He’s given us Jesus Christ, His Son. Let the weak say I am strong, let the poor say I am rich, because He’s given us Jesus Christ — His Son.” I sang that loudly.
And oh, I give thanks. Every day at every moment.
Over the years I have prayed for many. In various parts of the world, and by phone, and have seen miracles. A drug addict being delivered at that very moment, or a devil-possessed man also being delivered instantaneously. And to now having felt God’s very hand deliver me from near drowning is beyond words.
God deserves so much more than I could ever give in return. That is called grace. His grace towards me, towards us all! That is what God is all about. Amen!