Thursday, November 15, 2007


A True Story about a Divine Miracle on Florida’s Beach

Written: November 15, 2007

On July 8, 2007 I witnessed and experienced a divine miracle. It happened within the 1st two hours of arriving to Santa Rosa, FL while I was on vacation with my family. No sooner than checking into our rental home, we all decided to walk down to the beach to take in the sights. After about an hour, my parents left to do some grocery shopping while my sister and her boyfriend headed back to the rental; leaving my brother and I behind on the beach. We sat there having a good heart-to-heart conversation about life and the struggles that we encounter along the way. I explained to him that we will inevitably experience trials but it is through those times that make us stronger ... those moments are meant to build our character and teach us the art of patience. But the most important thing to remember is that we are not alone. God is always there waiting to lift us up. When we put our faith and trust in Him, we can overcome what seem to be the most impossible of circumstances. He is our advocate. He wants the very best for us no matter what. 

I told him that when times get tough it helps to look at what you appreciate in waking up grateful for another day, for the air you breath, for health, for sight, for hands to work, for moments like these to share with family, etc. It takes your attention off the problem and puts into focus the joys of life no matter how simple or small.

Another major point that I shared was that God works all in the right timing… on His clock, not our own. This is especially frustrating because we live in a society that doesn’t have time to wait….we want immediate answers and results right now! But “now” is not always the right time. Most don’t understand this until later…Why do you think it was coined, “hindsight is 20/20”. When we finally overcome our battles, it usually becomes clearer as to why we had to fight them in the first place. Personally, I know this all too well from my own experience without a job. The past 8 months were frightening and very frustrating but I’ve learned so much about myself during that time and have met some amazing people along the way. Not to mention, there’s a good chance that I wouldn’t have been able to take this vacation with my family if I had a job which would then make this story tragic and obsolete….as you will soon read.

So in the midst of this conversation, a woman in the distance began screaming at the top of her lungs. She was standing about 35-40 feet away with a child in her arms looking around frantically while screaming to her husband that “Rob is missing!” Her husband quickly went running towards the water, which was only about 8 feet away, and tripped over a ridge of sand onto his face getting himself up in a panic. Looking in the distance, I saw a kid (maybe 10 or so) face down in the water just floating there. I instantly thought that the child had drowned but to my relief he popped up out of the water perfectly fine, minding his own business. It then became clear that he was not the one missing. The woman was still screaming in horror. So I got up and ran to the father who was pacing back and forth still looking out into the water to ask him what his child looked like…he used his hand to motion to the child’s height reaching just above his knee. I then ran up to the panicking woman and asked her for more information about her child. She said he had curly blond hair and was wearing a bright orange shirt. She added that "he is deathly afraid of water", which little did she know served as a key piece of information. I tried to comfort her by telling her that it's a good chance that he didn't go into the water.

In the meantime, bystanders began circling around in curiosity. I knew that time was of the essence and found myself running in the opposite direction towards others sitting on the beach who were unaware of the situation so to ask if they had seen this child. Each shaking their heads no and saying that they’ll keep their eyes open. I began praying aloud for God to assist us in our search and begging God to help this family find their child. I then ran back up to the mother to ask her additional questions in hopes for more clues. I asked her where they had walked from to the place where they were standing when he was last seen. She pointed to a boardwalk in the distance probably about 100 or so feet away. I thought it was a good possibility that he couldn't have walked/ran that far without being seen, especially wearing a bright orange shirt.

So I thought, if he didn’t go into the water and couldn’t have gotten away without being seen, where could he have disappeared? Truly by divine intervention, I instantly had a vision in my mind of a sand hole where I recalled having seen someone digging just moments before. It was a few feet from where we were standing… more like a shallow hole; only about a foot deep. I fell on my knees in front of the hole and began digging earnestly with my hands almost certain that he had to be there. All of a sudden, with about 5 shovels into the sand (approx. a foot down), my fingers were entangled in what appeared to be blond hair. I began screaming, “I think I found him!” Others ran up and joined in the rescue attempt to excavate him from the sand. By now, about 5 minutes had elapsed from which he went missing. I knew that only by a miracle of God could this child still be alive so I began praying aloud, “Please God I believe and trust in You. I know all things are possible through You. Please Jesus help this child!” As we dug tirelessly, it seemed like sand kept collapsing in around him till finally we got his head uncovered. Lifeguards were standing by waiting to perform CPR but to our absolute astonishment, we saw his head move around a little bit in a circular motion. He was still alive! We kept digging to free his body from the pressure of the sand. As I dug, I could feel his armpit and yelled for someone with some muscles to pull him up. I moved out of the way as his dad grabbed under his arm and hoisted him onto the sand into his mother’s arms.

In a matter of seconds, the little boy opened his eyes and sat there with a peace on his face that no one could explain….a peace that surpassed all understanding. He was not gasping for air, he was not coughing up sand, he was not crying, he was not frightened….he was just at peace! I sat back on my feet with my eyes closed and began thanking God over and over again. There was no doubt in my mind, nor those who witnessed, that this child was saved by the grace of God! His father grabbed my hand and asked if I was the one who found him there. I shook my head ‘yes’ and began to cry when his father emotionally said that I saved his child’s life. All I could think to say was that “it wasn’t me….it was God!”

The paramedics arrived and assessed the boy for injury while the lifeguards broke up the crowd to allow the family some space. I got up and walked into the ocean to rinse off while continuing to give thanks to God for working such a miracle. My brother came up alongside me and gave me an exhausted hug as he too was still recovering from shock. With newfound excitement in my voice, I then made a connection…I told my brother that he had witnessed clear proof of God’s presence and love during someone’s trial. Though we did not physically see Him, He was there! It confirmed everything that we had discussed before this incident even happened. And it served as an example of God working all in the right timing!!

After it was said and done, I had an opportunity to speak to both parents (Stacey and Paul Duke) and meet their cute, little boy (Rob) who is 3 years old…he looked just like cupid :)  Through conversation, I discovered that they live in Ann Arbor, Michigan but coincidently used to pastor a church in St. Louis called Kirkwood Baptist Church. We were dumbfounded! It amazes me to think how we could cross paths like this, being from the same city, about 800 miles away. They said that they were in Florida for vacation and were staying with family friends who also live in St. Louis. Rob’s mother further explained that Rob is a twin to the one she was holding when he went missing. She said that the other twin (Charlie) would have been completely distraught if something terrible happened to his brother. I began to get teary-eyed when I told her that “I too am a twin and understand completely….my sister and I were inseparable at that age.” As we parted and said good-bye, they expressed that they would forever say prayers of gratitude for me for the rest of their lives. I acknowledged that they would be in my prayers as well.

I continued with my vacation without ever seeing them again but knew that one day we would somehow speak or meet a 2nd time, I just didn’t know when. Well, that time came sooner than I thought. When I returned home on July 15th , I was checking my email a few days later and saw that Rob’s mother had found me on the internet (which is a story in itself that again reaffirms God’s hand in this matter). She wrote that after the EMTs checked him out, they took him to the hospital for chest xrays and it showed that he had no sand in his lungs nor did he have brain injury!!!! Absolutely Incredible! This was a miracle! She said that her and her husband would like to stay in touch and proceeded to tell me that a doctor in Boston, by the name of Dr. Bradley Maron, recently published a letter in the New England Journal of Medicine about ‘spontaneous sand hole collapses’… such as the one her son was involved in. Apparently they are more common than you think, especially amongst those between the ages of 3-21 years.  Most of the victims are boys (87%) and majority of whom (60%) die from these accidents.  LINK:  Sand Can Kill

If nothing else, please get the word out to friends and family to let them know about this potential danger. It is totally preventable if you follow these simple steps:

1 - Don't dig holes deeper than knee-height of the shortest person around.

2 - If you (or your children) do dig holes, fill them up when you're done.

3 - When you arrive at the beach, scout out the area where you will be setting up, checking for holes. Teach your children to come tell you if they find holes that others have dug and tell them not play in or near them.

4 - Keep a close eye on your children while on the sand just like you would if in or around water.

Stacey went on to tell me that the national media has taken interest in Dr. Maron's findings. In fact, the CBS Early Show interviewed her family about their experience that following day and aired it on July 24, 2007.  Since then, I sat down and spoke to Andy Banker with FOX 2 News St. Louis - recounting what had happened. They aired it on August 22, 2007. Here's a link to the segment:  LINK: Buried Alive

As of date, I have remained in contact with the Duke family and know without a shadow of doubt that God has great plans for them, especially little Rob. AND I am extremely excited to have been blessed with the privilege to be a forever part of their lives.

BUT WAIT... there's more to the story that was revealed 5 years later... please continue to scroll down to Part 2 called "God's Wink"... ;)

 Left to Right:   Ian, Mitch, Ruth, Erika, Alexandra and Paco
My family and I on vacation in Florida about 7 days after the accident.

If you are interested in reading Stacey Duke's account, please click on the following link: 

Here's yet another recent story that aired on the TODAY Show about sudden sand hole collapses:


  1. Absolutely incredible story. I passed it along to family and friends. Good luck with everything.

    Tommy Johnson - Lindenwood Class of 03'

  2. i googled your name b/c i wanted to read the rest of the story...and i wanted to see if you were a Christian. the media is very comfortable using the word 'God' but rarely will talk about Jesus. i appreciate you adding on w/your blog.
    it is really good to hear how the Lord works in these amazing ways, truly a miracle. and in the Bible, many came to believe in the face of these miracles. and i pray that the same will happen in the lives of those around that sand hole.
    trusting Jesus
    Adam Bruckner

  3. Wow Erika! I never knew this! I just happened to google your name-I don't even know why. God is such a good and faithful Father. This story has blessed me and my husband. We are going to Florida next week and we will be watching out for sand holes that is for sure.

  4. What a story! I know *exactly* what you mean when you say it was God's hand not mine that found Rob.

    I have an experience and often receive praise, but know that it was God and not me who did the great deed.

    Thank you for sharing your message. I hope it is a light for others.