Shark Warning

By Yvonne Pittenger
Yvonne
Shark Warning – A Midway Story –

When we moved to Midway, I was 4 years old and quite a wanderer. One day, I wandered down to the beach. I remember that there was only one person there, a lady sitting on a striped beach chair. She was wearing a big hat and sunglasses, and reading a book.

That beautiful turquoise water was so tempting that, almost against my will, I started wading into it. I couldn’t imagine that anything so lovely might be dangerous. And I don’t know what compelled me to do it, because I had been warned by my parents to NEVER go in the water. But I guess that, in addition to being a wanderer, I was also not the best listener.

So I waded in further and further, until I was up to my chest. At that point, the ocean began to suck me in, sweeping me off my feet. I didn’t know how to swim yet and drew in salty water as I bobbed back up to the surface, gulping for air, and then back under again. One thought went through my mind in a jumble–I’M SCARED! SOMEBODY HELP ME!

I barely had time to think it, when I felt a hand grab my arm and yank me upwards. The lady I’d seen reading her book hoisted me up onto her hip and carried me to the beach. She dried me with a towel and asked if I knew what the flags in the water meant. I had no idea.

“Those flags are a warning that sharks have been spotted in the area and nobody should be in the water.”

She shared a bag of potato chips and we discussed sharks. Other than that, I only remember that she said she had four sons, all older than me.

I don’t remember her name, but I have never forgotten her.

Yvonne Pittenger
Midway Island, 1968 – 1969