The Rescue
by Patrick Corbet
Illustrations by Samantha Gray

The sun was shining through clear skies on the August afternoon. We were three 16-year-olds, without a care in the world, on a day trip to Catalina. Our other friend was supposed to join us, but his father would not allow him. He told his son he had a bad feeling.

Matt had come to Catalina earlier that summer with two good looking girls, who scored a discount on some kayaks by sweet talking the attendant. It was impossible we would have such luck now. Matt talked about a rock which could be used as a diving point on the north side of the island called Frog Rock.

Without kayaks, we would have to find another way to get there. The three of us began walking towards the north side. There was no direct path on the coast, so we would have to go through the hilly, rocky terrain. A bike rental shack was at the base of the mountain, so we paid the small price for the luxury of two wheels. As we raced up the snaking road, I questioned how we would get to the coast. Our elevation continued to climb, and I reasoned a diving rock would be near sea level.

We approached a hotel complex high up in the hills. After explaining ourselves to the gatekeeper, he allowed us to pass through. We, however, would have to leave the bikes. We locked up the bikes and continued our trek. After making it through the complex, we found ourselves in the brush that lined the terrain. Tyler stepped on a cactus. Pain shot across his face. He had always been the toughest one, but his face turned red in agony. As he took his shoe off to examine the damage, Matt and I debated turning around. The sky turned overcast throughout our journey, and the cool water that awaited us was losing its appeal. Tyler, full of macho bravado, insisted we march on.

"It doesn't hurt much," he said. "We didn't come this far for nothing." We reached the highest point and the path came to an end. We would have to trek down to shore. The side of the mountains looked pretty steep. I decided to look for another path down, but Matt, always the explorer of the group, decided to climb down.

I walked to the other side of the plateau. Each way I looked was steeper than the previous. Defeated and dejected, I went back to where I left my friend. I saw Tyler's head dip behind the rocks.

"Did Matt make it down?" I asked.

"Yeah, he said it wasn't too hard," Tyler answered.

The first stages of descent were quite easy. Zigzagging across the side of the mountain was easier than it looked from above. Matt stopped at a flat, thin slice of land to wait for us. Tyler forged a path and I followed nearly 20 feet above. We would be down to the coast in no time. The sun was even peeking out. It looked like our hard work would pay off.

Suddenly, the soil weakened. Each of us began sliding a few feet at a time. I would jar rocks loose and they would tumble down, nearly decapitating Tyler. He moved to the side and I continued down the face. Suddenly, the ground gave way and I was sliding down the mountain. The small rocks cut against the right side of my body. I called for Jesus's help. Time seemed to slow down.

Nearly 200 feet above the rocky coastline, I was sliding out of control. Each second seemed like 20.

I grasped a shrub that was popping out of the ground. If this shrub held, I would have a moment to calculate my next move. If it did not, I was running out of time. The shrub held. I took a moment to gather myself and survey the scene. To my right was a small rock ledge. I crawled over and stood, looking for a way back to the top. Behind me was a rock face which nearly shot straight up. Opposite the side I slid down was a straight drop at least 25 feet. The only way back would be the way I fell. I knew I was in trouble. Matt sat on a larger ledge, about 20 feet lower and 10 feet to the left of me. Tyler made it a little farther down than either Matt or I did. He made an effort to reach Matt, but was left clutching a branch jettisoning out of the side.

"We can make it down, worst thing that happens is we break a bone," Matt said, clearly not thinking that a broken bone would require assistance.

"I think we should call for help," I told him.

The debate raged for a few moments before Tyler chimed in.

"I can't hold on for too long," he cried. "Call for help." Matt tried to make the call first. No reception. I took out my phone. Call failed. Dejected, I tried to call 911 once again.

"911, what is your emergency?" the female dispatcher asked calmly. After hearing our plight, she sent a boat to find our exact position. She spoke with a calming voice, walking me through the plan she had set forth.

After the boat located us, they would send a repelling team to help us scale back to the top. She kept me on the line, in hopes of locating us with GPS.

"Everything is going to be alright," she said, in a motherly fashion. Then, my phone's battery died.

After what seemed like hours, the boat found us. An entourage of gawking kayakers joined in to see what would become of us. Soon thereafter, two rescuers repelled above us. The first secured Tyler, who had the biggest smile on his face. The other secured Matt. I looked above; expecting to see one coming for me, but no one was there.

Out of the distance, a helicopter appeared and flew above me. Dumbfounded, I gazed straight up to see a man being lowered. He wrapped a small harness under my arms and told me to hold on tight. I was suddenly dangling hundreds of feet over the water, on my way to the safety of a helicopter. As I approached the chopper, the blades blew gushes of wind through my hair while the sound was deafening. When I made it inside, I thanked Jesus one more time and smiled. This was way cooler than jumping off some rock.

A second helicopter came and picked up my two friends. We were reunited at a helipad nearby, where a police SUV was waiting to whisk us away to the station.

Threats of charges for trespassing and thousands of dollars in rescue costs were thrown our way, but could not faze us. We were too happy to be on solid ground. They eventually let us go, hoping we had learned our lesson. As we romped in the ocean waiting for our ferry back to the mainland I knew I had learned mine.

When your parents ask if you would follow your friend off a cliff, they generally mean it figuratively.

I learned firsthand that the answer is always a resounding no.