With the Thanksgiving season upon us and it being a time to give thanks, I feel compelled to share this story of my youth with your readers:
One early afternoon in the late spring of 1970 when I was 12 years old, my school friend Wayne Dearing and I finished up our lunch and headed back to our elementary school which was some distance 'up the harbour'.
Instead of taking the road to get to school, we took the more scenic route of walking across the cove's ice. Everything started out ok ... the ice was firm except for a little slush in places.
But as we kept going the ice became noticeably softer, with black sections popping up here and there whilst water squished up around our boots. Not the least deterred by this change in the ice conditions, we kept marching along at full steam.
The ice continued to deteriorate the further we went, and Wayne decided to head ashore. I, on the other hand was determined not to give up right yet. It was such a beautiful sunny day and there would not be many more occasions where I could enjoy the ice what with the warm spring weather eating away at it every day.
Proceeding on, the realization soon set in that dangers were beginning to creep in all around me. The feel of the ice was getting drastically different with each step. It was as if my feet were being pulled down from beneath and I had to lift harder to get them up each time.
I then saw the urgency to get back to land and quickly made a turn at a nearby stage to head towards a safe haven.
Just as quickly as I was trying to make it to the beach, the ice beneath me was getting thinner at the same speed. Then, in a blink, the ice gave way and I was immediately submerged in deep water, gasping for life. Not being able to swim, my chances of getting out of what could be a watery grave were slim to none.
I remember gulping in salt water, coming up to the top, trying to breathe, struggling to grab onto the end of the wafer-thin ice and then sinking back down three or four times.
During (I guess) my third time bobbing up to the surface, I heard a man shouting out to me to catch the end of a rope that he was throwing out from an open doorway of the stage. I missed.
Down to the depths I went again.
(The man later revealed that if I wasn't able to grab the rope when I came up the next time, all hope would be lost.)
Thrashing about wildly with my lungs taking in more seawater, I could feel myself rising back up one more time. Upon breaking the surface I saw the man toss the rope and by a miracle in those few split seconds before going under again, my numbing hand reached out and somehow managed to grasp onto the rope. The man pulled me to safety.
The man who acted with courage and speed and saved my young life that day so many years ago is Mr. Eric Critch of Moreton's Harbour. Mr. Critch is responsible for all the other things that I am thankful for in my life as we celebrate Thanksgiving. Without him being there on that spring day during my fifth grade walk across the harbour ice, I would not be here today with a great wife and five wonderful children.
Mr. Critch, thank you. You are indeed a hero - I want the world to know that.
Originally from Moreton's Harbour
Now living in Thunder Bay, Ontario