Many high school students often think of their futures with great expectations and impatience, always looking toward bigger and better things for themselves. It might be easy for them to forget to stop and smell the roses. But what if life has other plans? What if something happened that made a student question if they would even make it to tomorrow? For senior Sammy Jacobs, this became all too real.
On Sept. 9, it seemed like God was preparing Jefferson City for another Noah’s Ark with the amount of rainfall it had been getting. That night in particular, violent storms swept through the town. At 11:50 p.m. that night, Jacobs, on her way home from a friend’s house, was forced to stop on Missouri Boulevard due to the rains severely impairing her ability to see the road. After about ten minutes of waiting, the rains seemed to let up, and she continued on her way, driving toward the soccer fields on Highway 179.
Five minutes from home, Sammy came to the top of a hill that appeared flooded at the bottom. Still being able to see the painted lines however, and recalling that two cars had recently passed her on this same road, Sammy decided that charging through the shallow water would not be too risky. This was a potentially fatal miscalculation. In reality, the water was nearly six feet deep. The moment her front tires reached the water, the car was swiftly dragged into the rapids. Almost instantly, her car shut off, and Sammy saw in horror that water had begun filling her car. With her knees submerged, she began her attempts to kick her door open. When water nearly reached her shoulders, she freed herself from the drowning vehicle.
Seeing headlights on the other end of the road, she struggled to get across the waterlogged pavement to what she hoped was her salvation in the clearing. The water was still low enough so she could touch the pavement, but the rain had begun again and the water was rising quickly. Though the water was still shallow enough to touch, the strong current pushed her off her feet, forcing her to swim. Moving toward the lights, she was screaming and waving the flashlight on her phone to show the other car that she was out and alive. Due to her hands being soaked with water, it made it nearly impossible for her phone to sense her touch. The rapids rose up to her neck now, and the current was gaining strength. The flashes of lightning offered her a glimpse of how far she still had to go, showing only a giant river surrounding her. She realized then that making it across the road would be impossible.
Her attention shifted to grabbing onto a road sign and clinging to it until help could come. Struggling toward the sign, the current pulled her under. Sammy was in a constant battle with the high water and violent current dragging her down. She persistently had to keep fighting her way to the surface.
“I just kept going under so much, that my only thought was I have to make it out alive,” Jacobs said. “It was ridiculous how much water I had swallowed.”
When she was finally able to keep her head above water for a prolonged period of time, she realized she was clueless to her own whereabouts. The water, the darkness, and the rain created nothing but confusion and terror. Sammy felt tree limbs scratching and scraping her body as she was pushed into a tangled area of trees. She reached desperately for branches, but one by one they continued to snap. Sammy remembered negativity invading her mind.
“I just remember I was crying and thinking I’m going to miss Liza,” Jacobs said. “I’m never going to get to go to senior prom, I’m never going to graduate.”
While immersed in negative thoughts, she heard a voice yell to her, asking if she was still out there. She was able to climb into a tree and find branches sturdy enough to support her. She shouted back that she was still out there and alive. The voice called back that everything would be okay and help was on the way. At the sound of the voice, hope returned to her but slowly faded as she kept screaming to it but got no response. Out of the hour and a half she was in the tree, there was a period of approximately fifteen minutes where she wasn’t screaming. Sammy later learned that at this time the first responders left her, assuming the silence meant she had been killed by the flood waters. But when she resumed screaming, someone heard her and the paramedics were called back.
Not letting herself get her hopes up again, Sammy did not believe she would be saved until she saw a spotlight in the distance, coming closer.
“I just kept thinking about karma and how I had got here; all the bad stuff I had done and how I was going to change it if I made it out,” Jacobs said. “I just asked God to let me make it out alive, and promised that I would stop screwing up my life.”
As the rescue boat approached, her relief set in. She swam out a small distance and was hoisted in by first responders. The first responders were expecting to see a distraught teenage girl, but what they got was an unnaturally calm one.
“I was past the point of thinking I was going to die, so I was just laughing at myself,” Jacobs said. “The guys were asking if I was okay and telling me everything was going to be okay. I was like, ‘Dude, I know everything is going to okay, we’re good, okay?’”
Once back on land, Sammy was wrapped in blankets. In her jubilance of being rescued, all she could do was make jokes to those who had saved her, such as “Crazy seeing you guys here” and “Hey guys! What’s up?” Even going so far as to telling her cousin, a volunteer firefighter, not to mention the event at the annual family Christmas.