John Riggs knew what he had to do. Stranded 2 miles from shore near Deal Island on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Riggs had to swim to safety.

It was most certainly a life-and-death situation for not only himself, but also for this 70-year-old father, sister, 9-year-old niece, and 3-year-old nephew.

His family members, buoyed by their life jackets and hanging on to their capsized fishing boat, waited through the night on hope that Riggs would come through. And that he did after 5 hours of struggling in rough water and tidal flows when he stumbled onto the Maryland shore. “I just need to save my family,” he reportedly told the first person he came in contact with. A rescue operation from the U.S. Coast Guard and the local Fire Department was immediately dispatched. Soon, everyone was saved without harm.

Truly a heroic effort. Open water swimmers know the feeling well when they look up and the turn buoys never seem to get closer. Swim and swim and swim, and the buoys seem to stay there. Riggs undoubtedly swam towards the lights on shore. Imagine how he felt as he was swimming at night, stroking for 5 hours towards the coastal illumination?

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