By Judy Lacy

A Saturday in August 2022, while joining friends for a Peruvian memorial service for my friend’s Dad, via Zoom, we looked out at a beautiful, wide, blue sky with a few scattered clouds. Two of the biggest clouds were in the form of a cross.

I told the girls to look up. We were all in amazement. I told my friend, “Susanna, I think your dad is telling you he made it.” We chuckled and, of course, we had to take pictures! On Thursday Aug. 12th we said our goodbyes at the airport, I rushed home to pack and listen to a podcast.

Weekly, another friend sends me her daughter’s sermons. That particular week, the message was from a different pastor and my friend wanted me to critique it. I let her know I especially enjoyed an analogy about how God made it possible for Moses to be pulled out of the water by Pharaoh’s daughter. I followed with the comment, “I look forward to the day when God pulls us all out of the water.” On Friday the 13th, my husband Lance and I headed to Conroe, TX to visit John & Alice Eckstrum, who were celebrating their anniversary.

We had reservations for The Conroe Queen sunset river cruise for the following evening. We had invited another couple to join us but they were leaving town the next day, so declined.

Alice packed a picnic and we headed to board the double decker boat. The day was beautiful. As we got to the pier the sun was dancing in and out of the clouds, I decided to leave my sunglasses and purse in John’s trunk.

As we boarded the boat John asked if we could sit on the bottom level, the staff said she was sorry, but it had just been booked by a large party. John stated the music is so loud upstairs which she kindly said they can turn the music down.

We got a table, took out our munchies and enjoyed watching the people on jet skis, paddle boards, sail boats, and all the beautiful homes. Off in the distance, I noticed dark skies building. We finished our munchies, put things away and were enjoying our conversations.

As I looked out at the water, I noticed white caps and said “Alice, I have not noticed the white caps before.” About that time Lance got up to take pictures and mentioned there was lighting at a distance. I asked John how far the lightning was and he said about 30 miles away. I said fine, but if it was 10 miles away, I wanted off the boat!

A few of the downstairs parents and kids (several young boys and two dads with small girls in their arms) came up to see the view from the top. All the kids had life jackets on. At a great distance, I noticed a sail boat being towed and mentioned it the others.

Alice looked and said, “I’m surprised it still has the sail up, he is in trouble.” Lance asked us to stand up to take a group picture. As we stood up, we began laughing because we couldn’t get our balance. The boat was rocking back and forth. The wind had picked up and the white caps were now definitely waves.

As I stood looking out at the rough water I said “Alice, I think I’m just waiting to see Jesus walking on water.” We giggled and sat back down. Lance continued taking pictures but now our hair was blowing in every direction. By now we could hear the people downstairs jovially scream as they were getting wet by the waves. Lance then noticed the conductor was heading to shore and we were heading into a pier.

Lance said “Guys, I think we’re in trouble, we are going to hit that pier.” About that time, an attendant came running upstairs yelling “everyone move to the right”, which we all did. Then “everybody move to the left”, which we did. Then “everyone put on a life jacket.”

The life jackets were at the back of the boat and because the boat was rocking quite a bit, we struggled walking, hanging on to the boat spindles until we reached the back of the boat. We each put one on, however mine was adjusted for a small child, and I struggled to keep my balance as I attempted to adjust the strap.

Lance, Alice and John were handing out life jackets. Lance was standing against the railing of the boat by the life jacket box. Alice was in front of the box, John & I were at the other end of the box. Still struggling I was about to remove the life jacket, when I thought “no leave it on” as I continued struggling with the strap…..I have no memory after that.

We obviously capsized! I don’t remember hitting the water or hearing screams. The world went silent. The boat capsized.

I believe that as the boat capsized the life jacket box rolled towards me, pushing me into the back wall of the boat, hitting my ribs and bruising my spine. My next memory was actually an out-of-body experience – I saw myself in murky water doubled over like I had been gut punched. I heard my own voice saying “we’re all drowning.”

The next thing I remember is tilting my head up to catch my breath. I was under a metal table and only had about two inches to breath, if I tilted my head up. Through the metal holes of the table, I could see people reaching for what looked like rafters. They were actually the spindles of the side of the boat sticking out of the water.

I heard lots of screaming. I knew I needed to go back under water to move away from the table. The waves were trying to pull my life jacket up over my head since it was not strapped on. I took my glasses off and held onto them and my life jacket with my left hand and swam with my right.

I went back under water and away from the table. I was now in what felt like a washing machine cycle. We were all between the two walls of the boat with the waves slamming us back, down and around. I saw Lance at a distance bobbing up and down and thought we made eye contact. I gave him a thumbs up and yelled “I’m okay.”

As I reached up for the rafters a man was yelling “no, come this way!”  I felt pain on my right ribs. Fighting the waves, I swam in his direction. He was hanging on at a kicked-out opening of the boat. Before getting out, I turned back and saw Lance and he yelled, “go, get out of here.”

As I pushed myself out of the walls of the boat and into the body of water, the scene was like that of the Titanic. It was dusk and to my right and left were heads bobbing all around me. Again, I heard my own voice say “stay calm and pray.” The only words coming out of my mouth over and over again was The Lord’s Prayer.

The four to five foot waves were slamming everyone back down. Debris was everywhere. We saw floating empty life jackets, floating tables, chairs, purses, and shoes. My thought was “please, God save the children.”

The pier was about 50 to 70 feet away. People, like God’s army, came running from their condos to help. Some held out paddles and aluminum poles to pull us in, and tossed out life jackets, while others had towels to wrap those that had already been saved.

Still praying and swimming I heard a gentleman yelling in Spanish “no puedo, no puedo.” (I can’t, I can’t) I prayed for him and thought yes you can, yes you can. I finally reached a paddle as two men pulled me in.

The pier was two to three feet above me. They grabbed my arms and pulled me up onto the metal pier. I remember saying thank you, and my thought was that I needed to move out of the way because they were trying to save others.

I sat behind them in disbelief, or shocked, as I was looking out at the water searching for Lance, Alice and John and praying for all. As I sat there my thought suddenly went to “God just pulled me out of the water.”

In alarm I heard the two men that had pulled me out yelling for more help, I looked over their shoulder and saw white hair, sat back down thinking it was Lance, when Alice came running across me yelling “they are getting you more help John, hang in there.” My thought was then, “where is Lance?”

After they pulled John out he laid on the pier, but he didn’t move. Alice was yelling, “Are you okay, are you okay? I thought he was having a heart attack, but then he gave us a thumbs up and said, “Yes, I’m just trying to get my breath.”

I saw Lance being pulled out of the chaotic water at the other end of the pier. I started running in his direction. We met, hugged and I asked him, “Where is your life vest?” He said, “I didn’t have one, it blew off.” There were no more words. We found a bench, he sat down and I stood behind him. We felt so helpless, as frantic people were running in every direction, pulling people out of the water.

Many of us looked like zombies — wet, in shock and disbelief. Standing at a distant table was an Indian lady with a young boy. Their group was the large one on the bottom deck with most of the kids. I told Lance “I need to go talk to her.” Lance said, “no you don’t want to go.”

We both knew we might be seeing bodies being pulled out and he didn’t want me to see that, but I needed to go. I put my arm around her and asked her how large was her party. I think she said 24. I told her I was praying for her and for all of them. I patted the crying boy on his shoulder and told him the same. I went back and stood by Lance.

The EMS, ambulance, and police boat got there 20 to 30 minutes later, saving those who didn’t know how to swim and were hanging on to the side of the boat. They started dragging the water, taking down names and getting a head count. We watched them put a lady on a gurney totally limp. We gave them our names for their headcount and asked if we could leave. All four of us in shock. We cried. We prayed. But most of all, we realized that God had given us a second chance in life.

Sunday morning it made National news. No one drowned. One man passed away at the hospital of a cardiac arrest. The lady on the gurney had had a panic attack. Our friends were at the airport when they saw the news and called me to see if we were okay and to verify that this was the boat we had invited them to join us on the river cruise. I was so glad they had declined.

God was big that day. His army of angels pulled 53 people out of the water. John had taped the news for us to watch. Someone had captured a picture of the boat before it capsized. I had John freeze it so I could take a picture. As I sat and looked at the picture on my phone, I noticed the clouds in the sign of a cross above the boat. I said “John, look at this. God was with us every step of the way.”

We decided to skip the concert and head home. As we left Conroe, we were detoured due to an accident, as we approached to get back on the highway the building on the corner had a sign that read “Are you ready to meet your savior?” I thought, “hmmmmm… I sure came close to that.”

As we turned toward Lampasas, a truck passed with a message on his back windshield that read: “Jesus is Lord.” As we were driving through Lampasas the last billboard read: “Have you repented today?”

I told Lance “Okay, He is speaking to us. I hope and pray we are listening!” Every day I ask the dear Lord to show me how I am to serve him that day and in this journey of life. Life itself can be confusing. I pray for a strong backbone.

I know my faith continues to grow and I pray that each day I totally put my life in His hands, like I did that day. I was in shock, but I was at peace. I never felt frightened. I felt so grateful.

Judy has been married to Lance Lacy 40 years. They have two sons, both Eagle Scouts. She attended Angelo State University and retired from GTE/VZ. She works part time as a Licensed Massage Therapist.

Judy lives part time in the country and part time in town. She has done a great deal of volunteer work over the years: SVUM, Boy Scouts, Wesley Soup Kitchen, Operation Christmas Child, Sagecrest Nursing Home & Pregnancy Help Center.

Judy has also done extensive mission work in Mexico and Honduras. Her hobbies include bible studies, quilting, gardening, traveling.
She tries to live this way: “Never be afraid of an unknown future with a known God.”

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