When the safety bar on a thrilling ride fails, a mysterious stranger is there to save the day.
- Posted on Jun 13, 2019
We could barely contain our excitement as we went through the ticket booth at Kings Island amusement park in Ohio. “Let’s climb the Eiffel Tower first,” I said. “From up top we can look out over the park and see everything.”
My older brother, Luis, shook his head. “I don’t need to see the whole park to know I want to do the Drop Tower first.”
“How about we start with a family ride,” Mom said. “Something your little sister can go on too. Like the antique cars.”
Teenaged Luis and I looked at each other. No way. We had one day at the park. We were old enough for the scary rides and wanted a thrill. Mom gave in after we promised that the next ride would be appropriate for all of us.
After a good deal of strategizing, we headed to the Viking Fury. The ride resembled a long narrow ship that dipped in the middle and rose on either end like a crescent moon. Once in motion, the ship swung like a pendulum, reaching higher and higher as it gained momentum. At the ride’s peak the people at the far ends were practically tipped upside down. Even way down on the ground I could hear their screams.
“That’s the one,” I agreed.
“You kids be careful,” Mom said.
Luis and I waited in line while the passengers got off—some laughing, some gasping, some teetering on shaky legs. “This is going to be awesome,” my brother said.
When the attendant let us through, Luis ran to the right, straight to the end of the ship.
“I can’t believe those people sitting in the middle,” I said. “What’s the point of the ride if you’re not in the scariest seats?”
“Yeah,” Luis agreed. “We’re getting in the very last row.”
The very last row, unfortunately, was filled up on both ends. We had to be content with sitting three rows in. A couple of older guys were behind us. I sat in front of the tall one with blond hair. “Tall” was putting it mildly. The guy must have been double the height requirement for the ride.
“We’re pretty far out,” Luis said, looking down at the moat below.
“Enough to get really scared,” I agreed, craning my neck over the side.
We waved to Mom and our sister in the crowd and waited impatiently until the Viking Fury was fully loaded. When all the riders were seated, a thick metal lap bar came down over our head. The attendant, a teenager himself, walked the length of the ship, checking that the safety bars were all in place. I gave ours an experimental push. In a few minutes this bar would be the only thing keeping me from falling out of the ship and into the moat below. I brushed my fear aside. The danger isn’t real, I told myself. You feel scared, but you’re safe the whole time. That’s the fun.
I grinned at Luis. This was going to be awesome!
The ship jerked underneath us and we were off. Up and up we went into the air behind us, my head pitching forward, then smoothly back down before swinging up the other way. We went higher, then higher still, swooping this way and that, as if we were on the world’s largest swing set. My stomach did a flip as we hung suspended before the ship changed direction and dropped. My heart sped up. My hands gripped the safety bar. On the upswing I felt myself lifting out of my seat. For one horrible, wonderful moment I was lying flat against the safety bar, gazing straight down at the people on the other end of the boat. They looked miles away. The danger’s not real, I reminded myself, no matter how scary it feels.
People around us screamed as we swooped down again, and I screamed happily with them. Now I was lying upside down with my legs nearly over my head, staring up at the folks at the other end, watching them scream.
“Here comes the big one,” Luis yelled as the boat started its next swing. Up, up, up. The pitch forward was coming. The suspense! I gripped the safety bar tightly.
The bar popped loose under my hands. “Luis!” I felt myself lifting out of my seat, the useless safety bar pitching forward with my brother and me. Another scream rose in my throat—this one of true horror. This is real! This is real! We’re going to fall! Something grabbed the neck of my T-shirt. A warm hand. Luis and I were yanked back into our seat. We pulled the bar with us. I heard and felt a click as the bar snapped back into place.
Luis and I looked at each other in shock, then tilted our heads up to see the tall blond guy behind us. He let go of our T-shirts. “That came loose on you, didn’t it?” he said.
We nodded, unable to speak. The ride swung down again, in a smaller arc this time. Smaller and smaller until we came to a stop. When the safety bars came up we ran as fast as we could off the ride. “Mom! Mom!” we yelled. “We almost fell out!”
We breathlessly told her what had happened, talking over each other in a jumble. I don’t know if she really took it all in, this story from two overstimulated kids who’d been intent on having an adventure. It didn’t seem real now, even to me. Except for the most real thing of all.
“The guy behind us saved our lives,” I said to my brother.
“What guy?” Mom wanted to know.
We turned around, scanning the crowd still coming off the ride. It should have been easy to catch sight of a person that tall, but neither Luis nor I could find him.
“He should have been right behind us,” I said.
We kept looking around as Mom gave the attendant a warning about the safety mechanism. We moved onto the next ride.
“How did he see it all so fast?” I said. “He caught us right away.”
“It was like he just knew it,” Luis said. We stopped and looked around the park again.
“C’mon, kids. There’s no point trying to find him,” Mom said. “There was an angel on the Viking Fury today. That’s all there is to it.”
An angel at an amusement park? Luis and I thought about it and decided it was true. When the danger was real, the angel was too.
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