It was Easter week of April 2007. My husband Bob and I were driving from Ohio to join our son Mark and his family on Easter Break. We could not have known what was taking place as we neared Orange Beach; it involved our family.
Our cell phone rang, and it was Chris, Mark's wife. She was watching the event take place, and she was sharing it with us, and she and our granddaughters were terrified as they watched. Soon she was able to tell us all had turned out well and we'd hear all about it when we joined them at the beach.
When we arrived, the Tradewinds Condominiums were still abuzz with the story. Our son Mark and his wife and daughters had been at Orange Beach for several weeks preceding our arrival. When we did arrive, we knew we'd find them lounging on the beach beside the water, and we walked out to find them. As we passed the pool area on our way out to the beach to join them, our son Mark was a subject of the conversation.
"I thought I was seeing two people die in those waters out there," we heard a woman said. "And when he (Mark) jumped in, we thought it would be three. But he brought them in alive ..."
The details were disturbing to us as the parents of this unexpected hero. It had been a stormy day with high winds and six-to seven-foot waves---the sort of combination that breeds dangerous rip currents in the normally placid Gulf.
The Moores had set up chairs on the beach to be closer to the "stage" as the surf put on an awesome, roaring show they could not have seen back home in Ohio. "Mark heard something," his wife Chris recalled later. "We looked out into the waters and saw a man and a boy in trouble... Mark jumped in. It was terrifying to watch him being tossed around and sucked down repeatedly beneath the water... "
Mark wouldn't call himself a hero. It was not by conscious thought, he said; in fact, he does not remember making a decision to attempt the rescue."I'm not sure how it happened," he said. "I remember seeing those people in the water... (and) looking up and down the beach and realizing there wouldn't be a lifeguard. After that, the next thing I remember is actually being out there in the water, having a terrible time with it...
"I reached the boy and he was saying, 'Help me, mister!' and I wasn't exactly sure I was going to be able to get us both to shore. The waves kept knocking me down and pulling me under... I'd get hold of the boy and he'd pull away toward his father. He may be just a kid, but I still have bruises on my arms from his struggling... "
Later we listened as the boy's father, Ed Ennis of Louisville, KY, spoke of those desperate minutes. He had heard his boy shouting and seen him being carred away by the water, and he had jumped into the water after his son. The rip tides were in full control as the father and son struggled.
Later, he watched his son Brandon's resistance to rescue after Mark had reached them in the water, and he could see what his son was doing. "He was trying to come back to me," Ed told us, and the boy agreed. "I didn't want to leave my dad behind."
According to witnesses, when Mark got close to shore, two men stepped into the water to help him hand the boy off to safety, and then Mark headed back out toward the man in the water.
"When I looked back to see the father in the water, he looked limp, " Mark recalled. "I wasn't sure he was even conscious... "
Ed Ennis told us he was conscious, but simply exhausted beyond his ability to continue. "When I saw Brandon saved, I gave up," he remembered. "I just couldn't fight anymore; I had absolutely nothing left in me," he said.
"When I reached Ed, I slapped him; maybe I actually slugged him, I don't know." said Mark. "It made me mad to think that he could die on me... I worked to get beneath and behind his body to push him ahead of me through the water, and somehow we both made it."
On shore, the paramedics had arrived. Within a day the father and son were able to seek Mark out and thank him. They were a charming family, and we were thankful they---and our own family---were intact.
Mark marks his 50th birthday on Nov. 1, 2011. We honor him by sharing this story from the past. (He doesn't read my blog, so he won't know it).