On July 13, my son Brad and I woke up with a sense of excitement and anticipation of experiencing the culture of Miami. We loaded Brad’s backpack with everything we would need for the day and headed to the Peoplemover. Our stop was close to the American Airlines Arena where our weekend conference would be, and we headed over to Bayside Marketplace.
As we walked through Bayside, we saw the excellent service and tourism training of the staff. Our stop for gelato led us to the water taxi, which we boarded to go to South Beach. Once there, we dropped our towels and gear and went in to enjoy the warmth of the Atlantic. I stayed close to the beach to keep an eye on our bag as Brad headed out to the deep.
After about 15 minutes I lost sight of my son as he continued to swim further into the waves. At first I patiently waited for his head to pop out of the water, or for the waves to reveal his white hair. But as time went on I wondered, “Where is he?” After several minutes my heart started to pound and my mind race. A mother’s instinct took over as I began to go out to where I last saw him. Working hard at staying calm I continued out to the deep all the while jumping to see over the waves, to catch a glimpse of my son.
Finally, after what seemed like 30 minutes — though it more likely was 10 minutes — I saw his head and shoulders. Within a couple of short minutes I reached him and, remaining calm, sucking up that worried mother look, we agreed to meet shortly on the beach to catch the water taxi and head back to Miami.
My mind suddenly shifted to our belongings. I could vaguely see our black bag on the beach and, as quickly as I could, reached the sand only to realize it wasn’t our bag. Someone had dropped an old, worn, empty black bag near the spot we had laid our towel and scooped ours. Nausea overtook me and once again my mind was racing. Our wallets, phones, clothes gone. How were we going to get back to the financial district where we were staying?
Feeling violated, shocked and lost without any means, I started to wave the towel to get Brad’s attention. A woman named Melanie Gomez noticed my distress and asked if I were OK. I said “No.” I asked if she had seen anyone take a black bag from our towel. She hadn’t. However she looked up all of the numbers I needed and dialed them, allowing me to call my credit-card and cell-phone companies, Canadian bank as well as my partner to tell of the horror we were experiencing.
Melanie’s husband, Tony, coming out of the water with their son was told of our plight and quickly swung into action. He phoned his connections at the consulate and made sure we had all of the contacts should we be stuck in Miami with no ID and no money. Tony then insisted they drive us to our hotel. On the way there he made a pit stop and we carried on. Their son asked, “Daddy, are we going to church?” I asked if they were Christians and, realizing they loved God, tearfully said, “God has strategically placed you on that beach to rescue us.” Reaching the hotel Tony and Melanie made sure we were OK, had their number and could get into our room before handing me $200 cash. We hung on to both of them with tears and gratitude and said our thanks and goodbye.
If I had a heroes or humanitarian award, I would give it to you Tony and Melanie Gomez. They went above and beyond, walking the talk of their faith to see that two Canadians who were victims of circumstance and opportunity were rescued and taken care of. They are amazing people who have restored my faith in humanity and shown us the true hospitality and spirit of Miami.
Cheryl Peters, Vancouver British Columbia