Missing at Miller Road Park: Letter Details Initial Frantic Moments
A woman at Miller Road Park details the hectic moments right after a man goes missing in Lake Erie.
Editor's note: Avon Lake resident Trudy Keuchel was at Miller Road Park when a young Cleveland man was reported missing July 4. His name has not yet been released.
Peedee...is that you?
The air was thick. All day long, it was sluggish, uncomfortable, you could feel the heat radiating up, like being in a furnace- we all sought relief, a temporary reprieve from the incessant assault on our senses, muddling our thoughts, straining for release.
We saw the clouds rolling in last night, about 8 p.m. We decided to stop at Miller Road Park-, the same place we walk our dogs twice a day. We sat on a bench watching the boaters and jet skiers race toward the dock, fighting to get in before the storm rolled through. The wind picked up, a cooler breeze provided a temporary balm to our overloaded systems. The wind got stronger, the trees were bending. We decided to move away from the big trees, fearful large branches would snap, destroying our sense of peace.
As we walked away, we heard a siren, we heard several sirens. We watched as all the sirens joined together making a monotone wail as they descended upon the park. We quickly walked over to "the cut." The cut is famous. The cut is dangerous. The cut is alluring. What is "the cut"?
It's the area by the power plant. It's at the east end of Miller Beach. It's where the power plant produces strong discharge into the lake generating strong outward currents. The discharge also produces heat. The water's always warm there, alluring, like stepping into a soothing bath.
The problem is when the power plants outflow combines with the lake's natural undertow a deadly current lurks just below the surface. In addition, the lake bottom is shallow enticing those that wade in to step out just a little further to cool off from the oppressive heat. What people don't realize is the bottom drops off- very quickly, very severely, in combination with the current, even the most experienced, skilled swimmers are in immediate danger. One goes from sauntering slowly into the inviting calm waters to sudden, severe, twisting waters where the bottom drops out and you are literally pulled into the depths of hell. Some make it out, thrown back by the hands of fate, some don't.....
We stood by the fence watching the police as they ran toward "the cut." Three divers entered the water, their lights bobbing as darkness slowly crept across the park. The beach was cleared, save for the lone man who walked along the edge of the water searching, scanning, pleading to God for some sign of his buddy.
Meanwhile three young boys came up from the beach. They all had fishing gear in their hands. They were in shock- their faces blank- the one young man was without his shorts-wrapped in a towel. He, apparently had gone in the water, tossed back by the hands of fate, lucky to have only lost his shorts, fortunate to have retained his life.
Meanwhile,the man on the beach, came up from below with an officer. He scanned the small crowd that had assembled. "Peedee! He yelled out, Petey! Petey! he screams desperately as he thinks he sees his friend in the group. We turn as a group, perversely drawn into to this real life drama as it was unfolding before our eyes.
The person he was screaming at, turns, it is NOT Peedee, the man turns away, agony etched upon his face.
Time goes by, too much time goes by, the search continues, the reality sinks in. This is not a rescue it is a recovery.
The family arrives, hoping for a miracle, lined up at the fence, peering out, desperately pleading, begging with their God to please let him come back, make this horrible nightmare go away. More people arrive, each wave experiencing the grief, thickly hanging in the air, realizing, as each moment passes, their God will not answer, the silence is deafening, except for the whirl of the helicopter as it scans the water for their missing loved one.
The crowd thins.... We want to help, my maternal instincts are screaming, "Do something, Make it better!" The Mayor pulls out some money, we offer to go buy water. We race to the Shell station, The owner already knows. He is sad, he is sympathetic- he only charges us half price for the purchase. In the midst of tragedy, good exists....we race back to the park, handing out water to the family members, police and community officials. As we hand out the water I look inward, I deeply know, there is no-"make it better"-, it just doesn't exist, not here, not now...this is real.
Petey's parents arrive. They run to the fence. They see the divers, they see the helicopter, they see the Coast Guard boat.... suddenly a lone monotone wail fills the air, as realization smacks the Mom in the face, knowing the worst has happened, no chance for goodbye, no final hugs.....just the whirl of the helicopter as they continue their search. The father turns away from the fence, hears his wife's agonizing grief, he turns he vomits, he is too late. The years he's spent protecting his baby, looking out for his little boy- all gone, with out warning, without a chance to save his baby, now a young man, far too young to be gone.....
It is midnight, the small crowd has left. The media arrives, the glare of the bright lights from the camera scare the family, they group together, away from the outsiders, it is time to leave.....
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family...the journey continues....