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December 28, 2023

Cole immediately called me twice, but I was in an extremely unclear state of mind, and so while I was able to see and understand that I was being called, I did not think to answer the phone. I just stared at it for a second and kept walking further into the lake.

When I didn’t answer the phone the first time, Cole texted me back as he was calling the second time.

answer ur phone now

from Cole, 12:00 AM

Kent, who did not know how badly I was doing, also texted me back a couple of minutes later.

What’s wrong?

from Kent, 12:02 AM

I ignored Kent’s message because I did not want him to be worried about the state of mind I had gotten into by now.

Cole had been in his room right then with his roommate, Robert, who loved in Woodlee but was hanging out with the rest, and Will, another mutual friend of mine and Cole’s. Right around the time that Cole made his second call, he, Will, and Robert all left Bryan and came down to the lake, using Life360 to find exactly where I was. They were also very worried because my location marker showed up in the blue field that was the lake I was walking into.

As they drove toward the park, Will tried calling me as well. Again, I just blankly noted the texts and calls and kept walking into the lake. And at this moment, another friend texted me.

bro, We all love you man and to be honest I have been struggling to here lately like you aren’t in this battle alone of mental health there is a ton of people in it and God knows where you are man so don’t do this bro

from A Friend, 12:03 AM

I briefly thought about the fact that this message sounded somewhat frantic and hastily put together and realized that this friend was making a very desperate effort to keep me in this world with him, but as before, I did not respond.

And then Gabriel texted me as he had promised, although by now I was well past the point of calling and talking to him about where I was at and what I was going through.

I have a few minutes now 😊

from Gabriel, 12:05 AM

I put the phone back in my pocket and continued walking, as I was well out into the lake by now, and noticed for the first time how extremely cold I was. And I didn’t hear from anyone else for what felt like a very long time. The cold ate its way into my fingers, toes, and lips, and I lost all sense of awareness until a clear, steady sound broke its way through my abyss multiple times.

Suddenly, I stumbled over an object in my path. Stopping to keep my balance, I looked up and stopped walking, some sense of clarity rushing back into my mind. Looking around, I found myself greatly disoriented, in a flat, barren, wide-open area, far away from lights on all sides, and it was perfectly silent.

I heard the noise again—the sound of a desperate voice calling my name.

I turned around a few times and tried to understand where I was. I realized that I was not, as I had anticipated, above my shoulders in water—I was not standing in water at all. I was standing on a flat, slightly muddy plain. I had four missed calls, and Cole was calling me again.

I still didn’t answer. I was still taking in the situation around me. I remembered at this point that the lake I had walked into was dry, due to its level being lowered and the fact that it had not rained considerably for the past two or three months. The lake that I had walked into without the intent of returning was empty and dry, and I had been walking on a dry lakebed for about fifteen minutes.

I looked down at my phone again and returned the most recent of my missed calls—the call from Cole. My mind was becoming a lot less foggy, and I realized how extremely cold I was becoming, but I was still not thinking enough to say anything, nor did I know what I would say. I just held the phone close enough to my face that I could hear Cole asking me if I was okay, but made no sound other than my own silent crying.

While I was still on the phone with Cole, I received a call from a number that was not in my contacts. The prefix of the number was 775, leading me to believe that it was someone from Bryan College since all of the numbers at Bryan had the same prefix. Not wanting to create a major incident, I declined this call and also hung up on Cole. Then, I sent Cole a text message.

I’m in the lake
Not sure where exactly
I forgot it was empty

to Cole, 12:15 AM

Cole texted back almost immediately.

turn on ur flashlight and walk towards the road

12:16 AM

go on life 360 and look for me

from Cole, 12:16 AM

The strange number called me twice again. I ignored it both times, walking steadily back toward the edge of the lake, as near to the place where I entered as I could guess from where I was. But after a couple of minutes, I decided to return the call, still expecting someone from Bryan to answer.

It wasn’t anyone from Bryan. It was the Rhea County Dispatch Center. My friend Will had called 9-1-1. As soon as I realized how much of an incident was being created from this, I was overwhelmed with shame and anger toward myself. But I continued, realizing that I had not walked in a straight line after I left the dry land and that the place where I was about to emerge from the lakebed was a ways off from where I had entered it.

I stayed on the phone with the dispatcher until I reached got to where the police were coming to meet me. When I got there, I was nearly blinded by the flashlights of the police, and this made it seem like there were many more officers—fifteen or twenty—than there actually were—five. This very nearly terrified me, until Cole and Robert came out from the midst of them. But almost immediately, I was separated from them as one of the officers, and then another, wanted to talk to me and ask me all about what was happening.

Originally, I was told that I would be taken to the ER at Rhea Medical Center just to check and see if I was alright, due to how cold it had been. But by the time I arrived at the ER, it became clear that it would not be so simple.

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