One minute, we were having fun; the next, we were gathered outside a room of our local hospital, praying and worrying.
My name's Michael Stephens, Mike for short. I am the parent of two wonderful children: a daughter, Megan, thirteen, and a son, Ethan, who's ten.
We live in Ocala, Florida; we live in the state that has the highest days of thunderstorms; more injuries or deaths occur as the result of accidental lightning strikes in Florida than anywhere else in the U.S.
We took the necessary precautions. We knew that we couldn't get through one day without the threat of rain during the heat of the day, so we took our umbrellas and raingear. We knew that if it rained, we would get to shelter immediately.
Try telling that to God. Or to Ethan. Both had other ideas. God would send the storm; my son wanted to have fun, splashing and jumping in puddles. Never mind that it was lightning out.
He'd done it before without getting struck. Why should this day be any different?
Well, said storm blew up in from the east; soon sunny skies went from blue to black in a matter of a few short minutes and the wind kicked up, signalling to us that stormy times were soon to be upon us.
I called for Ethan to come in, but as ten-year-old little boys are wont to do, he ignored me. Of course, that was when my thirteen year old distracted me with a question that had to be addressed.
We gathered our gear as the first cold, fat raindrops began to pelt bare skin; we made it to the shelter: our camper. We quickly got inside, not even thinking that Ethan wasn't with us.
That was, until once we were inside. My wife, Jennifer, counted heads: instead of four heads, there were only three. The one missing was our youngest child. Ethan.
She was just about to call his name when the sky broke apart with a sudden sound that instantaneously deafened us with its hugeness. Lightning had apparently hit very close: too close for our comfort. It scared the holy hell out of all of us.
Once we got our breath back (and our hearing, somewhat), Jennifer called out Ethan's name.
She tried again, more panic edging her usually calm voice.
Nothing. No response.
We were just about to wonder where he was, when a scream from Megan forced us to look outside our camper. There, on the ground, lay the smoking body of a child.
Ethan. Our son. He had apparently been struck by the lightning bolt. He lay there, not moving.
Megan and Jennifer started crying, screaming for someone to help our son. I grabbed my cell, immediately punched 9-1-1, and called for help; I was the only one who could be calm enough to talk and tell the paramedics what happened.
We needed an ambulance to the park we were at. I told the lady on the phone that my son, aged ten, had apparently been hit by lightning: he was lying on the ground, not moving.
After I heard the faint wail of an ambulance siren, I thanked the lady; I had my wife wave the ambulance over to our camper. They were here in a heartbeat. One minute, no ambulance; the next, the ambulance was sitting right outside our camper.
Three paramedics jumped out. They immediately rushed over to Ethan's still body and began working on him.
It seemed like hours; it was only a few short minutes before they had Ethan on a stretcher, as they wheeled him to the ambulance; all this time, they continued to work on him.
Megan, Jenni, and myself began praying for a miracle for Ethan. We prayed that God would give him back to us.
So now here we sit, at the door of the Intensive Care unit, waiting for a doctor to come talk to us, to tell us about our boy, whether he is alive or dead.
*End of part one.*