Lauren Cantin

“Jan. 9th, is not all that I am.

Yes, I almost died. Yes, I still feel the pain of that night, every day. Yes, I lost three family members, and yes - after eight horrific hours being pinned-down by twenty-feet of mud, I survived by only a tiny air pocket.

Torn from the mud, I stood up struggling to keep my eyes open. I looked at the destruction around me thinking about ‘how this could have happened?’ I wondered whether my family and friends were ‘ok’.

As I was wheeled into the hospital puking-up mud and twigs. I cried when I had to hold my breath for the scans.

I winced as needles pierced through my skin, and as my closest friends came in to embrace me. We cried - letting the pain of that night flow out from our voices and eyes; I still couldn’t believe what was happening.

When I was trapped, shaking from cold, I pushed the sidewalls of my entombment in powerful bursts - struggling to free anything around me. I thought that I was dead.

One moment I was sitting near my brother on the couch and Dad telling us to get in the car. The next minute, I was running down the hall getting my boots on in my room and then, I was drowning in my Mom’s office.

I was being pulled under; I was being hit by everything in the area and was being pinned in between objects. I was holding my breath and then my mouth flew open because my will to keep my mouth closed wasn’t strong enough. The mud flooded in; I felt twigs, rocks, and mud being forced down my throat. ‘Why do I have to die so early?’ and ‘did my family get out ok?’’. Lastly, I just had this overwhelming need to tell people that I would be ‘ok’.

At some point, I realized I had stopped drowning and I was stuck with wood and debris all around me.

The first thing that popped into my mind was death.

I thought I was dead and I was angry. I was angry because I wondered where God could be. I screamed and wondered if when we die, ‘do we just stay in the same position?’

I was filled with sadness. There was so much I had not done yet -so much I wanted to do.

Now thinking back at this, I am reminded to live as well as I can and to not wait until tomorrow.

I am reminded that I am beautiful the way I am and that I am lucky to even be here.

With my thought of my Dad and brother looking over my shoulder at all times, I am filled with comfort, but also with the fear of disappointing them.

I wonder if they are ok, and I believe they are together.

One day I hope to see them again - to hug them, and to tell them everything that they had most likely seen from above. I need to remember when I tell them about my life, that January ninth isn’t it.

I was born in San Diego. My parents are Kimberly and David Cantin. My brother is John “Jack” Michel Cantin. I was born early and stayed a month in an incubator. My family then moved to Ohio where I lived until I was 5 years old.

In Ohio, I made great friends and great memories with my family. We’d go to the park or the pool and enjoy snow days; my brother and I started the day sledding down the backyard big hill, then we’d go home to have hot coco. When I was five, my family relocated to Santa Barbara. I missed my best friends but I made so many new ones here.

We went to the beach and attended Montecito Union School. I applied to Santa Barbara Middle School. It looked extraordinary; the people, the trips, everything!

I got my admissions letter in the mail and I was devastated.

I had not gotten in; I had been wait-listed!

Most of my friends who had applied - got in. I looked at myself and how I was doing in school. I went to the doctor realizing how my grades were average. And, I didn’t want to be average. I got examined and learned I had ADHD. From that moment forward, I swore I would try harder than I had before and show them that I could do it.

Then, I got 100% on almost all of my tests.

Then, during a family dinner, everyone seemed happy for some unknown reason! Finally, they told me. I was taken off the waitlist and would be attending Santa Barbara Middle School.

That first year at the Middle School my brother and his friends started a community service group called Teens on the Scene. I became an executive member and was co-president with some of my friends; my friends and I started up the first co-ed group in Teens on the Scene. This group now has hundreds of members.

I joined the National Charity League and have gotten to know many great people. I am also a singer; in grade 7, I realized I loved to sing, but was filled with stage fright. I joined a theater company where I have since then done three productions. Also, at SBMS, I learned to get out of my comfort zone and finally got up the courage to sing at a campfire. From there I knew singing is what I wanted to continue to do.

Now, I find comfort and joy in singing.

It is a way I can express my feelings as well as bring joy and inspiration to others. Singing is a way I find myself healing.

My friends and the community have shown my mother and I so much love and support in the past months and that has kept us standing. The community at Santa Barbara Middle School surrounded me. I know that going to that school was one of the most influential aspects of my life. As I was standing at Rites of Passage for graduation, I was sad; I felt tears swelling up, but I was also happy. I was happy I had lived till that day, I was happy I loved every single person standing on that stage, and I was happy to know that the bonds I made there with my peers and teachers wouldn’t go away after we left that stage. Biking through Arizona, Oregon, San Francisco and exploring the land and waters of the Channel Islands brings people together."

~Lauren Cantin

Nathan Williamson