News

Where Have I Been?

Written by Jacob Ibrag

For the past week, I’ve been pretty M.I.A on Eyes + Words. Truth is that I didn’t really know how to get back into the groove of writing after Feb 7th, 2016. I was part of five thousand five hundred souls that sailed in Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas that was headed towards Port Canaveral from Bayonne, NJ. For those of you that don’t keep up with the constant news cycle that the media throws at us (I know I barely do), my ship was caught by hurricane storm like weather conditions for more than ten hours. We’re talking about winds reaching 180 MPH, 30+ degree tilts of the ship and 30+ foot waves of constant badgering.

Before it got that bad, my family and I were at the buffet around 3:00 PM. I remember eating vanilla ice cream with delicious strawberry topping when my sister pointed out that one of the staff members dropped what they were doing and flipped out their phone to take pictures of the sea. The Atlantic ocean was getting angry, yet we didn’t truly notice until this man reacted the way he did. Immediately after that (3:10 PM), I took out my phone and started to record as well. Only then did I realize that we were about to get thrown in for a ride that none of us signed up for.

It only started getting worse on from there. Dishes breaking, people falling, knives skating across the floor. At one point, the crew just stopped altogether and stared at one another as if they were trying to communicate telepathically, ‘what are we supposed to do? Do we just keep going?’ And they did in a manner that sort of calmed people down. They didn’t panic and we all followed suit. Assessing the situation, I advised my family to rush back to the ninth deck to try to prepare for the worst. On our way towards the elevators we watched as water streamed from the upper pool deck down to the lower decks via stairs. Imagine crowds of people trying to avoid the water as they made their way down the slippery steps, oh and add some extra tilt to the ship and you’ve got yourself a disaster in the making.

Finally getting to our floor, we carefully walked towards our rooms only to see a group of about ten people stuck in an elevator between the eighth and ninth deck. I ran towards another group of people that watched as a cruise mechanic released the doors open. I watched on as a newborn child and her mother were lifted from the mouth of the elevator. I offered my hand to help an elderly gentleman barely lift himself out as the ship’s center of gravity was being bullied by the winds. We didn’t know each other’s faces but none of that mattered, we were humans that relied on each others compassion.

After that, my family and I finally got to our cabins and kind of just stood there in silence, looking into one another’s fearful eyes. Afraid to talk about what this could all be and mean for us, I got by blue back pack and emptied it, ‘I think we should fill it up with essentials and documents. Maybe even the take the Winter jackets out and get properly clothed. We don’t know if this ship will-.’ Afraid to finish the sentence, my parents and sister nodded as they started to get dressed.

Around 3:40 PM, the captain notified everyone on the ship that we had to stay in our cabins until further notice. If we were to leave, we would risk injury to ourselves and other people. ‘This is really happening,’ that’s all I kept thinking to myself. We could could die at any moment and never see our loved ones again. The conditions just kept getting worse as anything in the cabin that could move, did. It almost felt like something was breaking every couple of minutes. Wine glasses shattered everywhere, beds sliding in and out of place, items flying in every direction. I watched as my mother and sister held hands and joined each other in prayer as they clenched their eyes shut. I watched as my father who I consider the superman in my life barely sit in a chair as he searched for words to comfort us all. Then there was me, sitting on the floor helplessly as I bit the inside of my cheek in confused anticipation.

The worst feeling was knowing that our lives were no longer in our hands. The captain had five thousand five hundred souls that counted on his decision making abilities. From time to time, I wondered what he was thinking as he sat in his captains chair trying to maneuver us through the storm. About every hour or so, he got back on the speaker and told us the situation. He didn’t baby us or promise us that everything was going to be alright. I didn’t want that, I didn’t even care to know about how we got into this situation. I knew that if the captains voice was calm, we had some kind of chance.  He would later explain that the storm system forecast earlier was supposed to be small and nothing out of the norm. This was supposed to be a manageable situation and not a life or death ultimatum.

And so, the situation only kept getting worse as conditions rapidly became unbearable. My family and I holding on to anything, praying to ourselves and trying to stay strong for one another. Finally feeling completely helpless, I paid for wifi and quickly started a google search for prayers that I could read (around 4: 20 PM). I think I typed something like, ‘prayer for survival.’ Now, I’m not a religious Jewish person, but obviously the situation had me drawn to God even more than I ever was in my quarter of a century of existence. It was something I could do, something I could read to get my mind off the idea of the ship possibly capsizing at any moment. I’d finally stumble upon a small prayer that’s been transliterated into English with a translation.

‘Barukh Ato Adoni Eloheinu Melekh Ha Alom Ha Gomel Lahayavim Tavot Sheg’malani Kol Tov,’
‘Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who bestows good things on the unworthy, and has bestowed on me every goodness.’

I carefully wrote the prayer into my notebook and as I did, my mind wandered off into a different place. Fully concentrated on these words, I stood and looked towards my family as I started to chant loud enough for them to hear. Turning towards the balcony door, I held on to the handle and continued to read. For the next ten minutes I fought through the thirty degree tilts and kept reading no matter what things would fly into my direction. I read over the ghostly screeching sound that the clothing hangers would make when they slid from one side of the closet to the other. Around 4:30 PM, somehow the word Tehillim took over my thoughts, so I started another google search. Finding out that it was a book of Psalms, I wanted more than anything to find and occupy my mind with it. Not knowing a word of Hebrew, I found it translated in English on chabad.org. With my palm to the balcony window, I read chapter after chapter for two hours. My family would join me and listen as I spoke to God in the only way I knew how. Absolutely exhausted, I would collapse around 6:30 PM and just lay on the bed as I stared at the waves outside of the balcony.  Then I’d start to laugh and remember that Superbowl fifty had just begun.

Goes without saying that I’m never going to forget this years Superbowl. Even if I could barely pay attention to the plays or the Chris Martin halftime show, the program did exactly what my family needed it to do. It numbed us from the pain and gave us something else to think about. The captain would again get on the speaker and notify us that the mini bar was free of charge. Three plus hours of Superbowl action, Hershey’s chocolate and the wrath of mother nature.

After seeing Peyton Manning finally hoist his second ever Superbowl trophy, it was back to the Tehillim for another two hours until I couldn’t do it anymore. Instead, I separated myself from my family and moved to my cabin next door. I walked towards the balcony once more and thought to myself, ‘I bet if I was crazy enough to go outside, I’d see my reflection within those waves.’ With the condition not changing much, I laid on my bed while also holding on to its steel frame and just tried to reflect on my existence. I could’ve kept thinking about death, but that felt too easy. So instead, I decided to think about life. It wasn’t perfect, but it was mine. I thought about all the things I got to do and all the things I said I would and never did. I thought about how I had the honor to love another human being with all of my heart and feeling the same love in return. It wasn’t a perfect love, but it was beautiful while it lasted. I thought about my grandparents and their affectionate smiles. How my grandma always made my favorite dish that to this day no one has ever been able to replicate. I thought about my parents and the sacrifices they made so my sister and I could be happy. They gave me everything, and I just wished that I had more time to make it up to them. I thought about all of you that have read anything I’ve ever written in the past. You who re-purposed much of my life. I felt happy, maybe even at peace.

By the end of the night, I decided to live tweet some of my thoughts and videos from the experience. What I didn’t know was how many people were actually reading and listening. People wanted to help us, they prayed for us to make it through the Atlantic. The captain would again get on the speaker to let us know that it wasn’t going to be easy to get out of the storms path and that anchoring the ship was the best option on the table. I remember listening and smiling subtly. No matter what had happened, nothing would ever be the same. I closed my eyes and accepted my fate.

The morning after, I opened my eyes and realized that we’ve all been given a second chance. We weren’t anchored anymore and the captain had decided that the best option was to cancel the cruise altogether and head back towards Bayonne, NJ. There was another storm system developing off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida and without knowing the extent of damage to the ship, it was too risky to continue.

Throughout the day, I started to be contacted by numerous news media outlets that wanted to know what had happened. A major theme that started to rise above all was whether or not we felt that we were going to die and if anyone should been at fault. I honestly couldn’t even fathom thinking about who was at fault or not, I was just so appreciative that my family and I were alive. Each breath making its way into my lungs that much more special than the last. For all I knew, the captain was a hero. He stood in front Mother Nature and somehow won. He didn’t buckle under pressure and give into his own fears, he kept going on.

The seas days after the event were calm with some nights of lightening creeping near the ship. Walking around the vessel, I’d see people congregate to talk about their experiences. It slowly became to be known as the ‘Miracle on the Atlantic.’ The captain had later notified us that there were only four minor injuries. Think about that, only four minor injuries and no deaths. I remember thinking about all people I saw that were bound to wheelchairs and all of the elderly folk and what they must have gone through to stay safe and stable. It was hell for my family and I, but it had to be one hundred time worse for them. This was a miracle, there was no other way to rationalize it.

On Wednesday Feb 10th, 2016, we had finally arrived back home from the experience.

As we took our final walk through the halls of the Anthem of the Seas, we could hear eerie creaks of the tired vessel. She had just been completed in 2015 and was ready to retire if only for a few months. Getting out of the ship, the passengers were met with local and national media. Camera’s and microphones ready to record thoughts and freshly made memories. We survived and at long last, we felt the solid concrete ground below our feet. Reporters wanted to know how we felt. I knew how I felt. I was alive. I had the chance to dream again and feel the sun as it’s rays could once more dance upon my skin.

 

And here we are (those that have made it this far at least). If there was a moral to this story, it would be to learn how to swim. I guess the cliche moral would be to remember that at any moment, your life could be over. So every now and then you have to ask yourself, ‘am I happy with the mark I left?’


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Photographer Unknown

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85 comments on “Where Have I Been?

  1. VictoryInTrouble (Vic)

    Wow! I love the feeling you were left with. Some might be bitter or wanting to blame someone but I think your outlook is the best one possible.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What an incredible story. I can’t imagine the fear you felt. But to come through it like you did, with a real appreciation for life, family and forgiveness is extraordinary, especially considering many would rush to judgement and anger. So happy to hear of your safe arrival. Blessings.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. tmezpoetry

    I’m so glad everyone made it out of that traumatic experience alive. I was aware of that storm and what happened on the ship through media. Whether it is by the ravish of a hurricane or the small boat lost at sea, I am sure many can relate, at least, to the horror of facing one’s last day. Safe hugs. Good to see you writing about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Whew! I am so glad you are all ok…all 5,500 of you ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That sounds beyond terrifying. But glad you and your family made it back safely.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m glad you’re okay. I know the experience, one none of us would ask for, will turn into something beautiful and meaningful in you poetry. It’s really okay to just be quiet and allow it all to assimilate and become more managable.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. missmonsoon

    welcome back and everyone else 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh my goodness. I am so glad you and your family made it home safely. I’ve always wanted to go on a cruise and haven’t yet. My worst nightmare just appeared through your eyes. I know everything we do each day, there’s a risk that we may not make it to tomorrow. That’s why I live by faith. You seem to have a lot of faith and I appreciate you sharing this incredible story. I watched the news about it but never realized you were there. I’m sure it has brought meaning to you and your family and life is so much more beautiful! 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I was ready to envy you at the beginning of the post. This envy was washed overboard (pun intended) as I read on. I’m glad that you all got through it safely….with a great tale to tell. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  10. What an incredible experience! Thank you for sharing it (and thanks for liking my post). I couldn’t help but notice the prefiguring of your piece, ‘I’m With You’… perhaps it feels a little more personal to you now?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Eyes + Words

      Thanks Amy, what a wonderful connection. The piece certainly means that much more than it did.

      Like

  11. Hi Eyes+Words. Yes I saw it on the news glad you are alright and there were no serious injuries. Thank you for loiking my poem Centuries! Peace and Best wishes. The Foureyed Poet.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Glad you are safe. That’s powerful storytelling. Glad you are around to share it with us. Thanks also for sharing the moments where you prayed. What an impact that must have had on all of you. It’s become fashionable to either believe or pretend that we don’t need to talk to God, but I think we do.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Those that go down to the sea in ships…Psalm 107. You are doubly lucky, as a writer: you survived and you got a story out of it. You will telling this one for the rest of your life!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Got caught in a lesser but similar storm on naval vessel, DE696, in World War II. Severe rolls side to side.
    Appreciate the serious thoughts in such circumstance. Glad it turned out OK for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. My god, what an experience. I am glad you are safe and are able to begin digesting all that happened. Good luck.
    Also, thank you for visiting my site and “liking’ my post on Pablo Neruda’s quote.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Eyes + Words

      Thank you. You’re absolutely right though, still trying to absorb the events while adjusting to reality.

      Like

  16. Thank goodness you are okay. I’m not as religious as I should be. But, I find that when I am, things work out to my benefit proportional to the amount of effort I’ve exerted in return. It goes without saying that I should probably work on this more; perhaps, yes, to swim…

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Continuing to explore your site. Wow, what an experience! My husband and I have done three cruises, we had one storm that was a little rough, but nothing like the experience you describe. I did see the news reports of the storm and the ship being caught in the weather, but to read your account really makes it come to life. Thankful you and the other passengers were safe, and that you lived to write about it! I can only imagine the impact to your life. ~ Sheila

    Liked by 1 person

    • Eyes + Words

      I’m still discovering the impacts as the days unfold into weeks. Just truly happy we all made out alright. One thing is for sure, going through an experience like that makes a person a little less scared to pursue other challenging avenues in life.

      Like

  18. The news snippets we saw could not convey the reality of the situation. Thanks for sharing the inside story. Your tales of human compassion and faith are important reminders.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. A very powerful account of a terrifying experience. I am so glad it ended well!

    Liked by 2 people

  20. I started reading without a clue what the post will talk about and then I got more and more worried for your lives while I was reading. And at the end I must say I’m really really glad everything went ok for you on that cruiser. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. what a life affirming drama… I’m so relieved it all worked out in the end. minutes must have felt like hours. Your last line is so true… my life is lived trying to make the right marks on my own landscape
    “…at any moment, your life could be over. So every now and then you have to ask yourself, ‘am I happy with the mark I left?’
    Thanks for looking at my rose tinted ramblings earlier – much appreciated x

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Nicely related, Jacob.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. A terrifying journey. Your thoughts at the end were amazing and spot on.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Wow… Thank you for sharing all of this. I admire the way you don’t conceal the fear you felt. Others would have boasted with their coolness… Good to have you here with us. xx

    Liked by 2 people

  25. that first video of the ocean is insane.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Incredible! So happy you and your family are safe. Even reading this weeks later (!) the story is gripping and the blessing of your life is a miracle!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Hey! Thanks so much for liking my recent post – every bit of feedback is encouraging. 🙂
    What a beautiful read this is… thanks for beginning to share some of the thoughts and emotions, beauty and fear that accompanying this wild experience.
    Barukh Ato Adoni Eloheinu Melekh Ha Alom Ha Gomel Lahayavim Tavot Sheg’malani Kol Tov.
    Yes and amen!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. What a harrowing experience. Thanks be to God that all of you got out of the storm safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. What an amazing and harrowing experience. It’s often the desperate circumstances that causes us to turn to the only One who can calm our hearts and still the seas. Mark 4:39 He sees, He hears, He knows. The Psalm that truly stood out as I read your account was Psalm 90…”Teach us to number our days so that we may truly live and achieve wisdom. How long will we wait here alone? Return, O Eternal One, with mercy. Rescue Your servants with compassion. With every sun’s rising, surprise us with Your love, satisfy us with Your kindness. Then we will sing with joy and celebrate every day we are alive.” (TheVoice) Thank God for the safety of all that day- and may He continue to draw and bless you with long life, Jacob.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. What a wonderful story. Your experience makes the turbulence on my cruise seem like water splashing in a tub.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. This is quite a remarkable event. Truly God’s protecting hand was with you all. Glad you all returned home safely! 🌷

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Kenneth Donner

    Wow. I have experienced something similar off the west coast of Ireland, in October of 2014. Although it was a small boat, and we were no more than 25 people on an hour long crossing, the weather turned mad, and none of us thought we were going to live to see another day. Thanks for sharing your story and perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Near death experience almost always transforms one’s perception of life. And finally the artificial barriers we have created among st our selves fades and we truly feel human and vulnerable. It is the truth we always evade when in comfort. And re framing that experience as a blessing is a remarkable mark……. !

    Liked by 1 person

    • Eyes + Words

      Thank you. 🙂 I think it’s the only healthy way to look at it, as a peak into reality.

      Like

  34. Amazing account. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Powerful writing, makes me feel refreshed and calm somehow. Appreciate your thoughtful comments, humor, and authenticity. All the best to you and your loved ones.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Denise Mills

    Wow.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Breathless from start to finish as I read this post. So very thankful the trip ended well.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Felt some empathy here our family having been caught in a hurricane on a Chinese ship between Shanghai and Hong Kong many years ago. We were close to Taiwan at the time but due to politics were refused shelter there and had to pass back through the hurricane to eventually shelter in a Chinese harbor. I don’t think we were in actual danger (though no one would have told us if we were – several smaller ships did go down in that storm) but it was certainly an experience to remember. Like you we were asked to stay in our cabins for our own safety and I remember we kind of bounced back and forth off the walls of the corridors leading there. The strangest thing I remember was looking out of the window and seeing the sea occupying half of the sky.
    Like you we found our refuge in God claiming “I will lay me down and sleep for thou only causeth me to dwell in safety”. Some of our kids were small so we simply all went to bed and amazingly slept through it all to wake next morning to gorgeous glowing blue skies.
    Glad you also came through your “adventure” safely and with a story to tell.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. That was pretty incredible!! I am going on a cruise in January so I was looking for video’s to see how the sea is. I would not want to experience this though!!! Too wild for this girl!! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Pingback: Final – Eyes + Words

  41. A year later I’m wondering if you see this event as a gift. Truble forms us, we are made or broken by our choices and our alligences made in times of truble. Well done, your courage faith and character shine through. Also thanks for not giving into the B.S.G. game with the media. (Blame,shame&guilt ).

    Liked by 1 person

    • What happened was exactly what happened. It can be seen and be reacted to in a plethora of ways and the one I choose to lead with was that of thankfulness. It woke me up to the fact that nothing is forever except that of a progression of time which is yet another construct of ours to make sense of existence. In the end, I’d classify what happened as a wake up call which can be seen as a gift. That day has altered how I’ve been occurring and it’s exhilarating. To blame, shame and guilt is to waste the now and I refuse to give in. Easy is everywhere and I’ve had enough of it haha.

      Like

      • Yah that’s the attitude. King David of Israel informed us “We enter his gates with thanksgiving… and his courts with praise”. Not sure where your choosing to live but for me I prefer the kingdom of YHVH rather than the kingdom of this world’s systems. This is not to go “religious” on you because I am looking for how things really work not how men define them to be. What I liked about your Athme story is it underlines the fact there are no atheists in fox holes…Question is do we learn in them and go forward informed by our experience or slip back into the battles and fears that got us hiding out in a hole in the first place? And Happy Birthday Jacob your a might man of God….

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you Mark 🙂
        Crucibles aren’t crucibles until they are.

        Liked by 1 person

  42. Make gold takes a lot of heat…

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Experiences like this serve a particular purpose for each being experiencing it. We all petition The Universe for something without a thought to how it may come; no concern is present because we just want things to be better no matter what. Everyone joined you in reflecting upon what that something is during the moments of uncertainty and will forever be better for it. The ‘better’ arrived to with the same purpose to serve you as its messenger did. I am appreciative of this experience and your willingness to live through it because has and continues to fulfill my various petitions which I am now experiencing through you and your words. Thank you, Jacob.

    Liked by 1 person

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