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Essay: A voice told me to go back and look again in the pool

Marie Dondero recalls pulling her granddaughter out after

Marie Dondero recalls pulling her granddaughter out after finding her floating facedown in the pool. Credit: iStock

That Sunday in July started as many others do: warm, clear blue skies, a day for reading Sunday papers and catching up on chores.

Around noon, the phone rang. My daughter, Jan, who lives in Coram, asked whether we wanted to join her for a barbecue. It took all of two seconds to decide I’d rather spend the afternoon with Jan, her husband, Mark, and my two wonderful granddaughters, Brittany, 6, and Kristina, 2.

We gathered on the deck. Jan served soda and pretzels. Kristina came out of the in-ground pool and asked me to remove her life jacket, saying she was not going back in for a while.

I went into the house briefly, and when I came out, I heard my husband, Ed, ask where Kristy was.

I asked whether she might be in the house. I went to the front and asked others whether Kristy was with them. She wasn’t.

I then went outside and asked whether others had looked in the pool. They said they had, and she wasn’t there.

Brittany and her friend Tria were playing in the pool. I walked over and looked in each corner, but no Kristy.

I then decided that she might be playing near an old sailboat in the yard.

I took a step, but then a flash of light exploded in my head. A voice told me to stop, go back to the pool and walk around its concrete apron, looking down step by step.

I did so, not really expecting I would find her — but there she was, floating facedown a foot from the ladder at the deep end. Her blue bathing suit and the blue color of the pool had kept us from seeing her.

I screamed in disbelief. In one quick motion, I leaned over and pulled her out with my right hand, laying her across my left arm. I hit her on the back to get water out.

I laid her on the grass. She was blue and lifeless, her eyes were up in her head. My husband and another adult ran into the house to call 911. They got a recording first, but eventually got through to an operator.

In the meantime, I fell to my knees and put Kristy on her stomach. I pushed on her back to try to get water out, but nothing happened. Meg, one of my adult nieces, had first-aid training and began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Cindy, another adult niece, began chest compressions. Still no response.

Mark, Kristy’s father, pulled her into the sitting position. She was foaming at the mouth and threw up.

Then she started to cry.

Thank God! I was so relieved.

Just then, two ambulance workers arrived. They carried her to the ambulance and drove to Stony Brook Hospital. We followed in a car.

Hospital personnel examined her. She was 100 percent OK! The doctor came and told us how lucky she was. They kept her overnight for observation.

Kristy told her father she had bent over to get a toy whale from the pool and fell in. She said she tried and tried to swim to the ladder, but couldn’t make it.

I wrote this account down 20 years ago because I felt it was a miracle. Then I put it in a drawer. Now 84, I found it recently while discarding old papers.

That day in 1998 will be forever special — a reminder to me that there is more in life than is visible. I believe it was a guardian angel, or perhaps my father, Gerald Tiernan, who had been dead for more than 30 years, who told me to go back and look again.

After that scare, we were far more watchful around the pool.

Kristy, I’m pleased to say, is a recent college graduate and a new schoolteacher.

Reader Marie Dondero lives in Eastport.