Amber Marshall (2nd Quarter, 2008)

2nd Quarter, 2008
Nursing Scholarship Winner
Amber Marshall

“In the fall, I will be attending the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. and starting to pursue my career path as nurse.”

A Portion of Amber’s Winning Essay:

Amber Marshall

“Toot, toot” goes the “whistleblower” on the hot summer day.

A “whistleblower” is a lifeguard, who protects and watches over the lives of others as they take in the summer pastime of swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. I am a New York City ocean lifeguard, and have been for the past two summers. I work on the beaches of Rockaway, my hometown, where I work day-in and day-out protecting and saving people as they enjoy the Atlantic Ocean.

Rockaway is a peninsula that geographically lies between Jamaica Bay and Brooklyn to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the south. It is part of the Borough of Queens. Rockaway beaches have been called “the deadliest beaches in New York City,” mainly due to the vicious riptides and strong currents that make the waters so dangerous.

My work schedule involves a six-day schedule every week from the day school ends until Labor Day. I begin at 9:45 a.m. and end at 6:15 p.m. When I arrive at 9:45 a.m. to my assigned “shack” at Beach 73rd Street, my co-workers and I clean our “shack” of life-saving equipment (such as the backboard, rescue board, oxygen tanks, etc.) and check each item to ensure it properly works. My lieutenant assigns each of us to different lifeguard chairs and we then begin a “typical” day.

There is actually no such thing as a “typical” day as an ocean lifeguard. On any given day I can be searching for lost children or searching for swimmers in the ocean. Many parents become distracted at the beach and lose sight of their children. I have spent countless hours searching for lost children who usually are found wandering the beach.

On one particular day, two parents became hysterical as they claimed their six-year-old daughter was last seen in the water and was now nowhere to be found. This situation (which is called a “submersion”) requires the closest lifeguard to signal with one loud long whistle and hold one hand diagonally up and the other diagonally down. This signal indicates that all equipment, and approximately 60 lifeguards are needed within 5 minutes to start forming two lines to start diving in the ocean. Human chains of lifeguards are formed to continuously dive and explore the bottom of the ocean. This is done to ensure that if anyone is submerged, they are found and brought to the surface as quickly as possible.

Hundreds of people gathered as we were diving for this little girl. I don’t think I ever have run as fast in my life. I had to sprint a mile to the site where I was immediately sent into the water to join the diving team. This human chain requires dives every 5 seconds. You dive so fast and so far down that many lifeguards begin throwing up as they dive. No one would ever stop however, because no lifeguard would want any person to drown while he or she were on duty.

After a half hour of continuous 5 second diving, the little girl was found wandering around the boardwalk. She was returned to her parents and as all of the lifeguards were getting out of the water, hundreds of people gathered and started clapping and cheering for our efforts as “lifesavers.”

One day I was on a “walking post” which includes walking the shoreline in order to be closer to the bathers in the water. I noticed three bathers who were getting rather close to the jetty, which is a bunch of wooden poles that run out into the ocean in order to direct the current. I went over to them and started blowing my whistle directing them to move over. At that moment, I realized they might be drowning as they started pushing on top of one another, gasping for air.

I called a “case whistle” which indicated that there was an emergency and immediate assistance is needed. I ran in and swam to the three bathers. They then began to try and climb on top of me in order to stay above the water. I was unable to stand due to the depth of the water, and the jetty was extremely close to me. Help arrived just in time to take the bathers off me and bring them onto shore. When I got out they came to me and thanked me as they also called me their “hero.”

After the events of September 11, 2001, my neighborhood was in a state of grief. We lost many friends and family members. We were doing everything we could to try to help out our neighbor around us. We are a close- knit community who will always try to find ways to help another.

Just 2 months later, on November 12, 2001, our neighborhood saw Flight 587 crash down on us. It was a Monday morning at around 9:00, and I had no school. I was in the middle of breakfast, and all I felt was the ground start to shake below me; it felt like an earthquake. I was sitting with my Dad at the kitchen table when we felt this rumble. We ran outside and all we could see was a blazing fire right before my eyes. It was so real right in front of me.

My mom and dad ran down the block to help as did all my other neighbors, while my brother, sister, and I got down on our knees and did the only thing we knew what to do at that point-pray. We got down and prayed over and over asking God to help us. The crash killed 265 people including 5 of my neighbors. My neighborhood will never be the same. Every-day I pass the site and reminisce on the day of November 12, 2001.

After the events of September 11 and November 12 2001, my neighborhood has become closer than ever. We have come to realize the importance of living every-day, as it was your last. We have developed a community charity group called the Graybeards, which is a group set up to help others.

One of the projects they run every year is the Wounded Warrior Project. This is run in conjunction with disabled sports U.S.A. and the F.D.N.Y. as well. My family has housed two wounded warriors from Iraq and I have learned all about their experiences overseas. I have gained a new respect for our soldiers who are serving and representing us. The wounded warriors that have come have had their legs and arms amputated. Through this project they are able to see that life still goes on after what they think is the end of the world for them. Many become discouraged and go into depression. When they come to Rockaway, they learn that they can still do many of the things they were able to do before.

I have realized I want to be someone who will make a difference by helping other people. I want to make an impact with my life and make a difference in the world around me. I want to help a lost child, a grieving parent or people who are drowning.

I have decided that nursing is the career I want to pursue. It offers me the value of helping others and making an impact with people. I feel as though nursing would give me a reason to wake up in the morning and want to go to work. I love helping others and having the opportunity everyday to get to meet new people and learn new experiences. I enjoy serving others and doing what’s in someone else’s best interest. I want to know I can go to work and make a difference by helping other people.

I hope that someday I will get that opportunity to save another the way that I saved the three bathers. Maybe even someday I will become a hero to someone else. As Abraham Lincoln once said “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” I want my life to mean something to me. I want to make a difference, and I will.

Copyright 2009, All rights reserved.

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