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What you need to know about COVID-19: September 25, 2020
Ruthanna O’Brien has found her mind quieter and more prone to noticing the beauty around her.
“I am stopping and looking at flowers,” said O’Brien, 28.
“I’ve always been sort of spiritual. I know for a fact that God was looking out for us that day.”
On Wednesday, Kate Chisholm was reading a book on the deck of her parents’ cottage in Jimtown, Antigonish County.
She was also keeping a casual eye on two swimmers.
A northerly wind was pushing a swell into St.Georges Bay that created steep breakers where it met the current running out of Ogden Pond.
Having grown up swimming at the beach, she knew about the dangerous riptide there and that many visitors don’t notice the warning sign posted after someone almost drowned five years ago.
Her mother, Catherine, had rescued someone swept out by the current two years ago.
Life has provided some rough water for O’Brien.
But things had been looking up lately.
She’d moved to Antigonish.
She was engaged.
On Wednesday, she went swimming with her best friend Colin Greene at one of the new beaches she was discovering in her new home. She was going to ask him to stand with her at her upcoming wedding.
What started as playing in the waves quickly got serious as the pair realized they were getting carried out into the bay.
Both considered themselves strong swimmers.
O’Brien is a former lifeguard.
As she appeared to falter, Greene grabbed her and tried swimming for them both.
His heroics got him a chest full of water and O’Brien told him to let her go.
“The tide was so strong that we couldn’t see the shore anymore,” said O’Brien.
“It was probably about 20 minutes of us trying to keep above the water and screaming for help. Then we couldn’t scream anymore. We’d taken in too much water and your body stops working. I just prayed to God someone had heard us.”
Over the northerly wind, Kate Chisholm heard the word help.
She called her sister, Allison, who was cleaning up from lunch in the cottage and the pair ran down to the water.
“We knew we needed some sort of flotation device or there’d be four victims,” said Chisholm.
They grabbed a large windsurf board and set out.
Alphonsus Sears had been working on his cottage’s siding when he saw Kate and Allison run by.
“Those girls don’t just go running by,” he said Friday.
So he went running too.
As Kate and Allison beat through the surf on the board, they didn’t know if anyone was coming behind them.
“I was saying to myself that I’ve got these kids to live for but It was getting pretty hopeless,” said O’Brien of her daughter and her fiance’s two children.
“Then I see these two girls coming.”
Allison and Kate got down in the water, got O’Brien and Greene up laying across the board and then joined them on either side.
There was no way for the four of them to make it back to shore and they were still being carried out by the current.
“We knew we weren’t going anywhere right away,” said Allison.
“But they needed to get some rest and be able to breathe.”
O’Brien isn’t as casual about what was done for her.
“They risked their lives to save us,” she said.
Then along came Sears in the dented up aluminum boat he keeps on the beach for emergencies like this one.
Greene threw up repeatedly from all the water he’d swallowed on the long row back to shore.
“He looked about as close to death as you can get,” said Sears.
They weren’t out of the woods yet.
Beating through the surf they shipped water repeatedly and a few feet from shore one of Sears’ wooden oars snapped.
On Friday, O’Brien not only had a wedding to plan but a new appreciation for the new life she’s creating for herself.
She also has herself a best man and a few new friends in Jimtown.