By MADELINE GLENN | Special to the Palisadian-Post
The following piece is an excerpt from the Paul Revere Charter Middle School Anthology, published in 2017.
Ifelt the cold air brushing against my skin and the smell of chlorine filled my nose. It was a Thursday in June of 2015. I was 11 years old, and today was the day I would face my fear of scuba diving. My sleepaway camp had brought in a scuba expert to teach us how to scuba dive in the swimming pool.
I slid into the cold water and the scuba expert followed. Through my goggles, I watched him swim behind the other campers to turn on their air tanks. After turning on the other campers’ tanks, he said it was time to try breathing underwater with the snorkel.
I had been wondering why he never came around to turn on my air tank, so I assumed that it was already on.
I dunked myself underneath the water and immediately felt my chest explode like an atomic bomb, and though I was only about a foot under the water, I couldn’t force myself up. I opened my eyes to see other kids waving to each other and smiling, bubbles rising from their nostrils to the surface of the water.
It was at this time, I knew, my air tank was definitely not on. Every breath I took was another bullet that hit me right in the chest. When I finally popped up from the pool, I immediately threw off my goggles and undid the buckles on the vest that squeezed my torso.
My eyes began to tear up and my mouth breathed a breathless song of weakness. I jumped out of the pool, all of the other kids watching, the counselors in awe, and I sprinted as fast as possible to the grassy, shaded area where my sister, Emily, was lying on her towel.
I ignored the lifeguards yelling at me from across the pool. My heart was beating as if lightning had struck my body and set me on fire.
“Maddie? What’s wrong? Maddie!” Emily’s words were blurry and I couldn’t hear her well, but it was pretty obvious that she could see my pain.
“Can’t … breathe … air … help … please … ” She nodded, and the next thing I knew, I was sitting on a bench with the nurse. She told me I was just nervous and had a “freak attack.” Everyone else just thought I was being dramatic for attention.
If only I had told somebody that the scuba expert hadn’t turned on my air tank. My scary experience may have made me even more terrified to scuba dive, but it taught me to stand up for myself and how I feel, especially when it helps me stay safe.