...and I thank God for that.
This weekend has been the most dramatic in my life, and what happened will be in my mind and my feelings for a long time to come. I write this not only because I want to tell you about this, but also to help me cope with it myself:
I was on the boat on way to visit my parents. Unfortunately, we never made it that far; In the area where the sea is the worst, and in stormy weather, the boat ran on a reef and got a hole in the hull. It wasn't a loud crash and sudden stop, so I had a few confused seconds before I realized what had happened. Then a message sounded that said that, and that helicopters and boats would soon arrive to take us aboard, so we should stay calm. The communication stopped soon functioning however, so there were no messages over the loudspeakers about what happened and what we should do as the time passed. Where I sat however one of the crew soon came and told us to get the life-vests on - this was no exercise! While we did this (around where I was sitting) a hatch cover in the floor 2-3 meters away from me fell down into the hull, and a woman fell in. People got her up again after a little while, wet and oily and she could hardly see a thing.
We could see the water splashing up as the boat rocked in the waves, so we went backwards in the boat, holding us in the railings where (most of) the luggage was stored. There I helped one woman/girl fastening her life-west, and comforted a couple of scared girls that this would work out nice, we would all be saved. Not just to keep them calm and good spirited, but I meant it too. As we stood there, we (or at least I) saw pieces falling down from the roof, hitting g the floor where we previously had been sitting, and the floor cracking up. A little while later, the water started to flood the floor in that part, so we went up the stairs before it reached us.
At the top of the stairs, we found ourselves some places along the walls, holding ourselves in the railings, and sat down in the chairs. Here I heard the static in the loudspeakers (in addition to the alarm that had been on all the time.) I happened to stand next to the same two girls I had comforted, and when they wondered if I still believed we would be all right, I said I did. I really did, and they were grateful to hear that. As people started moving further back in the boat, I helped them over the slippery floor to the carpet and the chairs, where we rested together with the others, waiting for the boats and helicopters.
The water didn't wait though, it got higher up in the boat (or the boat lower in the water, but that's just details.) We started going out on the deck, all of us. One of the men there (I think it was one young man in the navy - there were some of them there) said in a calm voice, stating the fact: "Now we're sinking." He said it twice, and a female voice responded: "Don't SAY that!"
There was no panic (no screaming or running at least) as we calmly went out the door. One of those navy-boys/man even picked something out of his suitcase. I noticed a lot of paper in it, and was a bit annoyed at him as he blocked the passage, but waited patiently until he made space. Out on the small deck some sat on the benches, as other cobbled together in the corner that was most above the sea. I made my way to a pillar there and took hold. Luckily I had good shoes, so I had no problems with slipping. Again I helped another one with his life-west, fastening it better.
I heard someone saying "If anyone is falling down there they're finished" and looked towards the door opening in the other corner - I saw the water splashing there! Then I turned my head and looked at the corresponding one in "my" corner, and it was full of water (It was the stairway down to the floor below I noticed.) Wanting to make sure the knots on my own life west still was secure, I looked down - and they were gone! In a moment of panic I felt for the ends so that I could tie them again, but didn't find them. Then the floor got steeper I it wouldn't be possible for me to tie them anyway if I couldn't hold me in the pillar, so I grabbed it. Seconds later I was under water!
I was scared! I wouldn't follow the boat down, and luckily I could breath air again soon. I swam with my right arm, and with my left hand and arm I held and pressed the west towards my body, not letting go of the grip. After a while, we were three men that drifted together. One of the other took the command and told us to grab hold of each other, so that we stayed together and having a better chance. I grabbed him with my right arm, still holding my west secure with the left. The third man grabbed hold of my jacket. The waves kept filling my mouth as they came, and I spitted it out again as quick, as we navigated towards a larger collection of people. I tried to keep my head in the direction we swam, away from the waves, but it was hard, as I was holding the "commander" in the wrong side for that (as I never let go of the west with my other hand.) After a while though it occurred to me that I hadn't heard the third man coughing water for a while, so I turned my head - and saw only an empty life-west...
I did see a boat approaching us though, so I told the other one and we (or mostly him) started swimming in that direction instead. They threw out a rope and a stepladder for us - which I failed totally to climb or get good enough hold of to be pulled aboard. The other one tried to get the rope under my arms, but I was terrified and so scared for my life I wouldn't - or couldn't - let go of the grip I had on my west, even if I knew and sensed what they tried to do. The other one seemed much more fit than me, and I'm not sure if he could manage to get up or if he stayed in the water with me to help me. Luckily a fleet arrived too, which people were able to pull me aboard on.
I was in safety, but still, I screamed every time I breathed out. (Some sort of scream.) I tried to sit up and lean against the wall (as someone, possibly the same that was in the water with me, told me to) but I couldn't. I couldn't move my legs, and I think someone was lying over them, but I don't really know. Still, I knew I was safe now, except - I got into a state of mind where I believed I was having a bad dream, and tried in vain to change the dream. I was getting pretty annoyed that I didn't manage. Until I was in the ambulance.
I have no memory of being carried ashore and into the ambulance, I just heard the voices talking about giving them scissors of various sizes/types, and I knew they were talking about cutting my clothes to get them off me. I couldn't do much, just started to thinking this was a much nicer dream. I believe the T-shirt was pulled over my head, and after that I was completely stripped, on the stretcher under warm blankets. I was shaking from cold though, so I was massaged and my body temperature was found to be 34 degrees Celsius. (Not my idea of how to be cool...) One thing I can laugh of now is when I was asked if I needed to pee. I said I did (or nodded or whatever) so some towels (I think) was put under for me to pee in - but I held back. After all, I was convinced that I was dreaming, and that I would pee in my bed if I did... Well - I changed my mind about me dreaming after a little while, and got more conscious.
I was then able to talk sensibly and having my thoughts following me, noticing the time. I was surprised to see the clock showed it was 11:30 - I was supposed to be picked up at eight. Noticing the people were using cellular phones, I asked if I could call home. Which of course I could. I told the number, the driver dialed and game me the phone. It was my dad who answered. It took a few seconds before he realized it was me on the phone, but the happiness in his voice then was so good to hear - it had been so many hours for my parents then not knowing anything. Me telling them I was all OK now was such a great relief.
Well, I wasn't as OK as I would like to believe, so I was flown in helicopter back to the hospital in Stavanger, where my journey started. (Talk about long detour, eh?) Oh, nothing serious really. They just had to make sure, stop any possible infections (I had a bit in my blood) and give me enough liquid. In fact, at the moment I'm more stiff from all that treatment than from the accident - I'm feeling that only on my hands and fingers, and a stiff right arm from all the treatment.
It's going to be a lot of feelings and questions the following days (I suppose, and hope) but right at the moment I'm wondering if I'll see my keys and wallet (with content) again... Hopefully it's a good sign that I can be thinking of that ;-)
Well, that's it for now, first evening back from the hospital, thankful for getting my life as the biggest Christmas present ever. It's back to work tomorrow, even if I probably won't be that much productive... But it'll be good for me to be among them instead of sitting alone at home.
All my love,