Three girls played in the shallow water of Stewart Beach, while one of their moms watched attentively from the water’s edge.

There were two 8-year-olds and one 10-year-old. The taller of the 8-year-olds and the 10-year-old have been on the Galveston Island Swim Team and were very accustomed to the beach. The shorter of the 8-year-olds, while able to swim, had not been around the water as much as her friends.

As the day wore on, the girls felt more and more comfortable and drifted farther and farther out. Eventually, they were up to their chests and were having fun splashing each other and diving under the gentle waves. The mom watching from shore was a little concerned, but the girls seemed to know what they were doing. Although they’d gotten farther from shore, they weren’t as far out as lots of the other children swimming in the area.

At almost the same moment that the mom turned around briefly to get a water from their cooler, the shortest of the girls was pushed off the sandbar by a wave.

Unable to stand up, she panicked and tensed up. Tensing up caused her to sink and she started to kick and paddle really hard with her arms and legs.

She quickly tired and started dipping under the water.

Fortunately, the remaining two girls were only a few feet away and the other 8-year-old quickly swam over and grabbed the struggling girl’s arm and swam her a few feet to the 10-year-old, who was able to stand and wrapped the girl in a bear hug and walked her closer to shore.

The mom was already on the way out to meet them.

All in all it was a pretty minor event. It ended up OK, but it could have been more severe.

The parent did all the right things. She was sober, attentive and picked a spot right by the lifeguard so they’d have that extra layer of protection. But it shows how quickly things can go bad when you’re in the water.

We talk about layers of protection a lot. An attentive parent is a layer. A lifeguard is a layer. But in this case it was a third layer that may have kept something bad from happening.

This little girl was with two friends that were good swimmers. This is called “herd immunity” in epidemiological terms.

A child surrounded by other kids that have been “vaccinated” with swimming ability and water safety information has less chance of drowning.

So, in conclusion, let me plug our barbecue fundraiser tonight at 24th and Postoffice streets from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

There will be good food, good music, pro surfers with Hurley showing a new surf video and a silent auction.

It’s a chance to surround yourself with lifeguards and beach people. It’s the beach party of the year and with that much herd immunity I can practically guarantee you won’t drown.

Peter Davis is chief of the Galveston Island Beach Patrol. The views in this column are Davis’ and do not necessarily represent those of the Beach Patrol, Galveston Park Board of Trustees or any other entity. Information on the Beach Patrol is at galvestonbeachpatrol.com.

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