When Fear Becomes Reality

Aidan Riordan

It was Saturday, June 20, 2015. I frantically packed my bags for the beautiful sandy shores of the Outer Banks in North Carolina. I ran through the house as I looked for pool toys and other games to play during our two-week vacation. For beach vacations, we usually got a house with a pool because I have a huge fear of sharks. However, I do not let that fear keep me from enjoying the ocean. I have always told my parents, “I am going to die in a shark attack.” They always called me crazy since I have a better chance of dying from a cow. Despite the low probability of being attacked by a shark, I always took the necessary precautions to decrease my chance of being a victim of a shark attack. For example, I never swim early or late in the day, I only wear plain bathing suits, I swim away from piers and people fishing, and I avoid unnecessary splashing.

It was finally Sunday morning and we hopped in the overpacked car to head to the beach. The moon and stars were still out, but it was super humid. I was so excited to get in the ocean in a few hours. One of my cousin’s, Ganon, obnoxiously loud snoring kept me awake most of the ride, so I went on my phone and listened to music. I opened my shark tracker app to see if any sharks had pinged recently off the coast of North Carolina.

“Mom, Dad! A tiger shark was seen off the coast of Nags Head yesterday!” I shouted over my cousin’s snoring.

“But, how far off the coast was it?” my dad asked.

“10 miles,” I replied.

“You do realize how far that is, right?” my mom said.

I did not respond. I know my parents think I’m too cautious, but I would rather be cautious than unprepared.

After what seemed like days, we finally arrived at our beach house. Before the car was even in park, my cousins and I piled out of the car like customers flooding Target on Black Friday. We sprinted like marathon runners to the water as the scorching sand burned our feet with every step. As soon as I dove into the monstrous waves, I knew it was going to be a great week. It seemed like all the worries from girls, sports, work, and life were washed away.

About ten minutes later, I felt something like sandpaper brush up against my leg. I looked down nervously into the murky water to see what it was. I did not see anything, so I continued to ride the waves. A few seconds later, I felt it again.

“Did you guys feel that?” I asked.

“Feel what?” my cousin, Nathan, asked.

“I don’t know. I thought I felt something brush up against my leg,” I replied.

“I think you are just paranoid about sharks,” my cousin, Ganon, chuckled.

“You’re probably right,” I said.

I continued to swim until I heard a panicked woman’s voice from the shore. At first, I could not make out what she was saying, but then I saw everyone running to the shore with horror in their eyes. She was still screaming and this time, I could make out what she was saying.

“Shark! Shark!” I heard her yell as she pointed her finger to the water less than 50 yards from us.

My heart was beating faster than ever before, including when I asked out my first girlfriend in middle school. I heard the lifeguard blow his whistle so fast it sounded like a machine gun. He screamed at us to hurry up, but I knew I had to go slow to not disturb the water too much or else the shark might mistake us for fish. I felt like I was being chased by Michael Myers from the Halloween series. I have never felt so scared in my life.

Thankfully, we all made it to the shore safely. Everyone gathered on the shore like a football team in a huddle as the cool water trickled beneath our feet. We looked frantically out into the water as we searched for the shark’s fin. Every few seconds, we saw the knife-like shark fin pop up out of the water as it effortlessly moved from east to west.

The next two days were normal. The weather was hot and gorgeous as the beaches were packed with people and excitement. Children boogie-boarded in the water, adults drank and talked, and teenage girls tanned. It seemed like everyone had forgotten that a shark attack had happened on this busy beach two days ago. For me, however, the attack was still fresh in my mind.

It was now Wednesday, June 24th. As I drank my delicious French vanilla Dunkin’ iced coffee on the screened-in porch, I turned on the news to check the weather for the day. Immediately, my heart stopped, and my coffee hit the floor and exploded all over my new white shoes. “An eight-year old boy was attacked by a shark in Surf City,” the reporter stated. Although this was not the Outer Banks, I was concerned since the reporter also mentioned that it was the fourth shark attack in North Carolina that month. There was one on June 11 in Ocean Isle, NC, two on June 14 in Oak Island, NC, and the most recent on June 24 in Surf City, NC. He then showed a map that indicated that the shark attacks seemed to be moving northward up the coast of North Carolina. I was paranoid.

The next morning, we walked onto the beach as the sun beat down on my tomato-colored, sunburnt face. “Should we go to the right or left?” my dad asked as we stared out over the dunes of the sandy shores.

“Let’s go to the left,” I replied. Little did I know that at that time such a simple decision may have changed my life forever.

It was around noon when I was body surfing wave after wave with no fears in my mind. Then, I heard panic erupt like a volcano about 100 yards away to my right. “Shark!” I heard coming from the shores. Who would have thought I would have gotten out of the water twice in

one week because of a shark? I vacationed in Avon, North Carolina for years and never saw a shark’s fin before. I rushed out of the water and followed the crowd to the scene. “Somebody call 911!” a mom yelled as she rushed out of the water while the waves hammered her like she was in a boxing ring. We waited anxiously as a man hobbled out of the water with a trail of red blood flushing out to sea. Everyone was in shock. Not too long after, ambulances echoed along the shores as they arrived at the scene. The stretcher was rolled along the sand at a snail’s pace, but they loaded the man on and drove off.

“That could’ve been me,” I thought to myself.

“Good thing we have a pool,” my dad joked.

During our stay, two more shark attacks occurred in North Carolina. It was then concluded that choosing a new family vacation location would be a wise decision.

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