On the morning of Sunday September 19, Elizabeth Tromans, a Catholic Relief Services Fellow in northern India and a former lifeguard, was hiking with a CRS team to get humanitarian aid supplies to flood survivors in an area called Uttar Pradesh. She says:
“We were on our way to distribute kits to clean water. We went as far as the car would allow. Then we took a boat, and then we walked 2 or 3 kilometers [about 1.5 miles]. In between, there were a few areas where the road was washed out or there was standing water.
“We came to a road with a bridge that was washed out. We crossed over that in about knee-deep water–it was rushing pretty quickly. On the other side, we stopped because a phone was ringing in my backpack.
“I turned back and saw a man coming by bicycle with his wife on the back. He pedaled into the water. I thought, ‘What is this guy doing?!’ The current was strong; you couldn’t see the road underneath.
“Pretty immediately his wife fell from the back of the bicycle. She was underwater immediately.
“I ran over and saw her hand sticking up out of the water. I jumped in.
“I grabbed her. I wasn’t touching bottom. I was floating on my back, kicking, and my arms were under her armpits. The current was taking us forward, but I was taking us to the side.
“I looked around. Five hundred to 1,000 yards off to the side, I could see a house that was not too deep into the water. I knew I could at least get to that spot.
“We got there. From that house, we were able to go around and walk out the other side–the water was waist-deep. The woman’s husband met us there.
“The woman had swallowed quite a bit of water. She was struggling; she was bending over and holding her stomach.
“Even on dry land she had quite a grip on me. She was in shock. But she was standing and breathing.”
“I do worry she’ll get ill from swallowing that water–it was disgusting. I told villagers, ‘Please tell her to take care of her health.’
“Earlier I had been joking with the CRS team, ‘Don’t worry, I’m a lifeguard.’ That was my summer job in high school. I’ve been a swimmer and a diver my whole life.
“It came in handy yesterday.”