What is the difference between a survivor and a statistic? There have been countless books written on the subject (Deep Survival, Into Thin Air, Into the Wild, The Unthinkable, are some of the few that come to mind).
I think a major difference between those who make it out of disasters and those who don’t is the suspension or destruction of an illusion the majority of the globe has: the illusion of safety.
It is something we all have to fight against. Anything, from a few stairs to hairdryer can be fatal if we are not vigilant and somewhat conscious of our surroundings.
Take this example from the San Fransisco Chronicle.
A family ventures to a beach for a nice outing. It is probably a place they’ve been to many times before. It is a nice day. Mom, dad, and daughter are getting along. Their guard is down, they are relaxed. Suddenly, the mother and daughter are forced out to sea by a rip tide, resulting in their tragic deaths.
I don’t know any more details that what is on the Web, but I’m assuming that this wasn’t a sudden freak occurrence that killed this two. Rather, they were just too comfortable and didn’t realize how close to oblivion they were until it was too late.
For those of us who live near oceans, the National Weather Service provides some tips if caught in a rip tide:
- Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
- Never fight against the current.
- Think of it like a treadmill that cannot be turned off, which you need to step to the side of.
- Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle–away from the current–towards shore.
- If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
- If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by waving your arm and yelling for help.
Looking at these, it is easy to see how a rip tide could be deadly. If one is being pulled out to sea, especially with daughter in tow, it would seem only natural to try your damnest to swim back to shore. But this instinct only helps to ensure a negative outcome. You have to relinquish control, something most of us have a hard time doing, in order to survive. Something, it seems, the mother and daughter might have ignored because of the illusion of safety.