The Summer of 2001
The summer of 2001 in the United States is one that will always be remembered.
Not only did the country suffer from the worst terrorist attack it had ever experienced, but it also was the summer of one of the most vicious shark attacks in decades.
Monster Lurking in the Depths
For one family, their fourth of July weekend was supposed to be a vacation in paradise.
Unfortunately, a monster lurking beneath the depths would upend their family fun and turn it into an absolute nightmare…
That terrible summer is one that the Arbogast family is likely to never forget.
Living in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, Claire and David Arbogast were looking forward to spending a few days away from the hustle and bustle of life.
With the school year finally coming to a close, the family was looking forward to a vacation.
The kids (Jesse, Vincent, and Marie) especially were excited because their aunt and uncle along with their cousins would be coming along as well.
Heading to Florida
The plan was for the Arbogasts to drive to Mobile, Alabama where Aunt Diana and Uncle Vance lived.
The two families would then travel to Florida to soak up some sun and enjoy the beautiful beaches the state had to offer.
Beautiful Beach Getaway
So when the fourth of July weekend came around, the families packed up their belongings and headed for Santa Rosa Island near Pensacola, Florida.
Santa Rosa is known for its stunning views, white sandy beaches, and crystal clear blue water. It was the perfect destination for a family vacation.
The Perfect Vacation
For the first few days, the family’s time in Florida was everything they hoped it would be. The sun was warm, the ocean was cool and the Independence Day festivities were spectacular.
No one could have ever expected their lives were about to change drastically.
Something Wicked This Way Comes…
However, on July 6, 2001, the Arbogast family would forever be changed.
Because unbeknownst to them, something dangerous and deadly was lurking beneath the surface of the ocean…
Playing in the Water
In the late afternoon hours on Friday, July 6th, the children were enjoying some time in the water while Aunt Diana and Uncle Vance watched from their beach chairs.
With the sunlight slowly fading, the kids enjoyed one last splash in the surf before calling it a day.
In the Shallows
While eight-year-old Jesse stayed in the shallows with his older brother, the girls chose to drift out further in their inner tubes.
Nothing seemed out of the ordinary and the boys continued to play and splash in the water like most boys do. Then it happened.
A Terrified Cry
Out of nowhere, Diana and Vance heard a blood-curdling scream from Jesse.
His brother Vincent, soon started to scream as well as the water began to violently thrash and blood turned the water into a crimson red.
From Fun into a Nightmare
In an instant, the family’s fun vacation evaporated into one of their worst nightmares.
Leaping from their chairs, Jesse’s aunt and uncle ran to the water’s edge to see what horror had befallen on their nephew.
Monster Beneath the Surface
Reaching the water’s edge, Diana and Vance were shocked to see the dark outline of a shark near Jesse.
How could they have ever known a shark would come into the shallows? Everything seemed completely safe!
A Vicious Attack at Dusk
Unfortunately, the family didn’t realize that dusk was prime time for feeding for most sharks, especially off the Florida coast.
At only 15-yards from the shore, Jesse had become the victim of a vicious seven-foot bull shark.
Shark Attack Capital
You may not know this, but Florida has been named the “Shark Attack Capital” of the world. However, despite this title, shark attacks are actually few and far between.
The media and its sensationalism is really the reason sharks have been demonized over the years. Most sharks don’t attack humans.
The Bull Shark
Sadly, Jesse’s attack was not an ordinary attack. The bull shark is known to be one of the most aggressive sharks in the world.
They dwell in the shallows and are known to attack humans more than any other species of shark.
A Vicious and Brutal Attack
Jesse struggled with the shark, its teeth piercing his flesh and creating a violent spray of bloody foam and water.
Vance didn’t even think when he reached the water and rushed into the waves. He knew he had to save his nephew no matter what the cost.
The Final Struggle
Meanwhile, the bull shark had bitten a huge chunk out of Jesse’s thigh. When Vance arrived, the shark had Jesse’s arm in its mouth.
Vance tried to pull the shark away from Jesse and actually succeeded but the boy’s arm was torn off in the process. Thankfully, a bystander was able to grab Jesse and bring him to shore.
Grabbing the Shark
While others at the beach helped get the two girls to safety, Vance wrestled with the shark, and somehow managed to bring the 200-lb beast onto the shore.
With Jesse’s arm inside its mouth, he refused to let the vicious predator escape. Meanwhile, Jesse had lost a lot of blood and his situation was not looking good.
Killing the Beast
With the shark finally on the beach, a park ranger named Jared Klein put down the bull shark with four bullets to the head.
He then pried open its mouth and was able to remove the boy’s arm. Unfortunately, Jesse had stopped breathing…
Aunt Diana immediately clicked into emergency mode and began to administer CPR until the EMT arrived. Jesse was then airlifted to the nearest hospital where he spent 12-hours in surgery as the doctors attempted to reattach his severed arm.
Unfortunately, the little boy’s injuries were extensive, the extreme blood loss had damaged his organs and his life was hanging on by a thread…
Fear Spreads in the Media
Meanwhile, the horrific attack took the media by storm and made headlines around the country. It would only be days later that a man from New York would lose his leg to a shark and surfer in Pensacola almost died from another attack.
Despite the attacks not being out of the ordinary, the media started a fear mongering campaign, claiming that shark attacks had become an epidemic.
Not wanting to give into the media, both families of the victim chose not to give interviews.
Soon, suspicious headlines began making the rounds, claiming Uncle Vance had been shark fishing that day, which lured the killer bull shark into the shallow waters.
Of course, this was totally not true.
Unfortunately, the media didn’t stop creating stories out of pure speculation, but eventually, all of the rumors would be debunked.
Even better, Jesse survived his terrifying ordeal, although the scars from the attack would remain with him for the rest of his life.
17 Years Later…
Seventeen years after the attack, Jesse is alive and well but is wheelchair-bound and suffering from brain damage due to the blood loss he endured as a child.
However, despite these disabilities, he is a happy young man who is thankful to be alive. Don’t take life for granted. You never know when your world could be changed in an unfortunate flash of fate.