The tragic story and first-hand account of the controversial death of fellow parkour practitioner, Korey Sarvas, as told by Julian Vazquez.
For anyone who may not be familiar with who I am or who Korey was, please allow me to first introduce and explain myself. My name is Julian Vazquez; I am a parkour athlete from South Florida, as was Korey. Together with Blake “Thor” Barrett, Alex Reyes and several others, we co-founded Trace Unity Freerunning. I have been training for eight years now, and I am currently serving active duty in the United States Navy. At the time of his death, Korey was a fitness trainer and parkour instructor, appearing in “Jump City: Seattle” and struggling with the same ordeals as every other 22-year-old male athlete. Korey was midway between divorce and reconciliation with his wife at the time and struggling financially just as I was. For the two weeks leading up to his death, we had adopted a considerably risky training philosophy centered around the inspiration we had garnered from an interview with Daniel Ilabaca and the first tier fitness levels of the United States Navy SEALs. Korey and I would stay awake until 2 A.M. watching “BUD/S Class 234” at a level that we both admired and wished to have ourselves. When we weren’t trying to mimic the training of the SEAL candidates, we were pushing ourselves mentally and studied the Bible, going back and forth between conversations about Daniel Ilabaca’s philosophy and how we could be better people through Christianity and altruism; I have since outgrown those ideals.
Korey and I trained to know ourselves better. Korey wanted a closer relationship with God and a level of fitness unrivaled by his wild imagination. He wanted his body to be so finely tuned; his heart and mind so spiritually sound that there would be no trick or circumstance which he could not conquer using the tools we had developed together over years of training, be it physical or spiritual. In Korey’s case specifically, it was through the strength he found in Christ.
At the time, I was aimless and unsure of life. I didn’t know for sure if the world as a collective whole was something that I wanted to be a part of. Parkour seemed to be a dead-end street for me, but training was my only escape. Korey was lost in his relationship with God and his desire to share that with others. Korey believed that by becoming an example of superhuman ability, he could help to bring others to God. He lived in the present for God and God only. To him, all other things were byproducts of the quest for His purpose.
As reserved as we may have been about it to others, we grew arrogant to a great extent. We wouldn’t do our pull-ups on a pull-up bar; we would max out on the edge of a parking garage, five stories up. We would visit jumps at night that terrified us during the day and do them, protected from our fear of the darkness of night and our inability to perceive the danger. Later we would go back and conquer those jumps in the daylight, having done them already, and we would force ourselves to observe logic instead of fear. Mentally we were free, and there was nothing off-limits.
We had lost sight of our mortality; to us, there was no future, there was no past, only the now. The present was all that held significance, and we would embrace it to the point of life and death. We were wrong to embrace that mentality. Because of it, I will forever live with regret.
From this point forward, I must warn of the graphic nature of this article. I will forever live with the weight of that night, December 4th, 2011, and it is my obligation to share with the community exactly how the night unfolded and why.
To Korey and I, it was just another night of training, just as it had been the entire two weeks or so leading up to it. I was sleeping on his mother’s couch and living out of my pockets, doing all I could to be a friend during a tough time. We simply took things a little too far, too hard and too fast. It was too cold, and we were too tired to continue training. Korey would want people to know everything, and he would want them to learn from it all. What started as a narrative of what happened to his family and our closest friends has become a personal compulsion to share who Korey was with the world. It is what he would have asked of me if he could. I will never have another friend quite like Korey Sarvas.
“Dude, don’t you just wanna climb up there and steal that light?” Korey asked me jokingly from the sidewalk in front of Kilwin’s Fudge shop. The Las Olas strip was glistening with lights, lively in the cool midnight breeze of South Florida. I looked up at the disco lights above the closed yogurt shop across the street. I can’t imagine why a yogurt shop would open right across the street from a Kilwin’s, let alone why they would have a pulsating disco light above the dark and empty store. It seemed rather stupid to me.
“Nah not really,” I replied. My mind was elsewhere, still wondering why the yogurt shop would be situated at that kind of place.
“Ah come on man! Just imagine, if we just get up there and take it and start dancing with it. What do you think people would do?” he urged, prompting us all to let out a bit of a laugh. The idea in itself was ridiculous, but I knew where this was heading and I knew we’d both end up on the roof, just walking around for shits and giggles because we could, and because nobody could stop or see us. “Screw it, man, I’m going up there,” he said. Within seconds, he was sprinting down the strip, dodging cars and junking people as he went. I glanced around at Everett and Alex, both of whom had their heads turned in Korey’s fading direction as he rounded the corner behind the buildings across from us. They looked back at me briefly, exchanging shrugs and chuckles, and I responded as I paced away, “Fuck it, I’m going with him. I wanna see him get up.” I sprinted down the sidewalk to try to catch up with Korey, stopping for a second at the intersection separating me from the other side of the street by a seemingly endless flow of public taxis and tricked out rides. Who knew Las Olas was home to some of the richest partiers in Florida? Minutes earlier, we walked past a club to let Alex stop and take a dump. We had the pleasure of waiting for him next to a black Rolls Royce which led to the humorous discussion about the likelihood of Jay-Z being inside the club too. He may have possibly been shitting in the stall next to Alex.
A small gap between the cars allowed me almost to get killed crossing the street, but no worries; they just honked and kept driving. I continued my run and turned the corner behind the building to an odd silence and tranquility that contrasted with the city street on the other side, and caught a glimpse of a human head poking up above a car some ten yards away. “Korey!” I yelled, shocked at the volume of my voice in the still alleyway that was lit up in sections based solely upon the placement of wall lamps and backdoors.
“Oh, hey,” he replied as I walked over to him.“I wanna get up, but there are cameras everywhere,” he said, as he pointed out the surplus of surveillance equipment draping the walls under the lamp posts.
“Bro, why don’t we just try that AC pipe? If we can climb it, the camera would only catch our legs on the way up, and it would be so close that they could dismiss it as a squirrel or something,” I suggested, upon surveying our options.
He looked at me with a sarcastic expression and said, “Obviously, but then how the heck would we get down?”
I laughed, “Yeah, you’re right. That would be pretty embarrassing, having to call the fire department on us cause we got stuck on a roof.” He raised his eyebrows at me in agreement and continued scaling the alleyway, searching for an opportunity to climb.
Out of range of the lights and cameras, we came across what looked like some residence with a shingled overhang that angled down towards the ground. It was a simple wall-run up the overhang, then a second wall-run up to the roof that was connected by the building face; too high of wall-runs for me to try, especially in the shoes I had on that were a size too small and belonged to my girlfriend. But I bet Korey could do it. “Oh, shit dude, look at that wall-run. You could wall-run the first overhang then get up from there.” He contemplated it for a second as he approached the wall with his foot to test for grip.
“Yeah, maybe if I tried I could get it, but it would be weird because of the angle,” he said, as he backed up from the wall, staring it down in anticipation. “Well, I’m not gonna do it with these shoes on cos I’ll break my toes and probably slip. But once you’re up, go look for me on the other side of the building”, I called to him as I walked towards the other end of the alley and back to my friends on the other side. My last glance back caught him gripping the top of the first overhang and muscling up to it.
“Nice! He made it.”
I took off into a sprint again, caught by surprise at the scene of activity I had left behind. I must have forgotten Jay-Z was in town. I approached the bench outside of Kilwin’s where Everett and Alex were waiting expectantly for something to happen and notified them of our latest status. “He’s up,” I said, with a turn of my head and a nod to the top of the building.
“For real?” Alex asked.
I replied with a laugh, “Yeah man. He wallrunned this awning and used it to get up.”
“He’s fucking crazy,” said Everett, with a shake of his head and a smile on his face. My finger turned skyward to a dark silhouette approaching the edge of the yogurt roof, as it waved and placed its hands on his hips, superhero style.
“What is he, Superman?” Alex asked.
We all laughed as I jokingly called out, “Where’s Spider-Man?” Korey shot out invisible webs from his hands in a Spiderman pose. His silhouette disappeared for several minutes, only to be replaced by his face quickly approaching from a few feet away on the sidewalk where we waited.
“Dude, you know the building I climbed up on to get to the roof?” he asked me.
“Yeah, what about it?” I said.
“There was like a ten-foot gap between the two buildings. I had to get across it. It was sick.” He said, panting and smiling. “Man, that was sick,” he said again before taking a seat on the bench next to Alex. “Where’s Moises?” he asked.
Everett took out his phone for a time-check and replied with a shrug, “I don’t know, he should be out any minute. He got off ten minutes ago.” It suddenly dawned on us that the lights were out in Kilwin’s and we were waiting outside of an empty shop. It wasn’t much of a concern though as we’d just talked with Moises twenty minutes before we entered Kilwin’s for Korey to get a root beer. As we stood outside waiting, I brought up a new trend that superseded planking in its glory and essence.
“Have you guys ever heard of nosing?” I asked. “Yeah, you were at my house when we saw that!” replied Alex enthusiastically.
“Nosing? What the heck is that?” asked Korey.
“It’s this thing where you go up to random unsuspecting people and just put your nose on them for a couple of seconds then walk away,” I replied.
“What are you talking about?” Korey asked with a laugh. I demonstrated by placing my nose on the window of Kilwin’s and walking away nonchalantly. “Dude that’s crazy,” Korey exclaimed with excitement. “We should all nose Moises when he gets here,” Everett suggested, and we all laughed in excitement at the prospect of nosing our unsuspecting friend after his long day of serving ice cream. Then, we sat in relative silence for a minute or so as we waited.
“Sup guys?” said a green-hatted beaner with a Kilwin’s bag and an apron.
“Nose him, quick!” Alex whispered to me, and in unison, we all got up and placed our noses on Moises. We all backed up at the same time and resumed life as if nothing had occurred.
“Holy shit Moises. Where’d you come from?” Everett asked with a smile followed by a high-five.
“He must have come out from the back,” Korey replied.
“Yeah,” said Moises, confusedly laughing and sharing his high-fives with all of us while rocking his Kilwin’s work uniform like a champ.
“Dude you missed it. I got up to that roof up there and started dancing and aping Spider-Man, it was awesome,” Korey said to Moises, still smiling and a little winded.
“Really?” Moises asked in a surprised manner.
“Yeah man it was sick,” he replied.
“What do you have in the bag?” Korey asked.
Moises just shrugged and said, “I got some ice cream.”
“Oh,” said Korey replied with a general feeling of disinterest.
“What kind?” I asked. He pulled out a medium cup with what looked like cookies ’n cream packed to the top. “Here,” he said as he handed it to me,
“You can have this one.” He held out the bag in front of him.
“Anyone wants the other one?” he asked. “What kind is the other one?” said Korey.
“Coconut crisp,” Moises responded, and with a mutual shrug of disinterest, Alex, Everett, and Korey made it clear they didn’t want it.
“Did you bring any spoon?” I asked. “It feels much more enjoyable when you consume ice cream with a spoon,” I said again, but I was sure Moises thought of that.
“No,” Everett said with a laugh, “I wasn’t even planning on eating them until I got home.” I opened up the ice cream and offered everyone first dibs before I ravished it with my fingers.
“What the heck are you doing man? What is wrong with you?” Korey asked in shock with his hand extended to me and a scowl on his face.
“Dude, I asked if you wanted some! Here!” and I extended him the ice cream cup.
“No man that’s gross, get it out of here,” he said with a chuckle.
“Moises, are you coming to the beach with us?” I asked. He took his phone out of his pocket for a time-check and replied, “I don’t know man, I’m kind of tired, and I’ve got work tomorrow.”
“What time are you working tomorrow?” asked Korey in an accusing but friendly manner.
“5,” Moises replied.
“AM or PM?” asked Korey.
We all looked at him with disbelief on our faces as Korey said encouragingly, “Ah, come on man. Your body needs at least 6 hours of sleep. You’ll get twice that.”
“But I also gotta lift with Julian tomorrow too,” Moises replied.
“Bro, fuck it. I’m going, Korey is going. We’re all lifting tomorrow, and I gotta work at 11 A.M. Man up, ” I said. “Yeah bro, just live in the moment,” Korey exclaimed. Finally, Moises gave in.
“Alright, let me call my parents and see if they’ll let me.”
“What! You gotta ask your parents’ permission to go to the beach after work?” questioned Korey.
“Well, they don’t have to let me, but if I wanna live at home, they do.” Moises stepped aside and made his phone call as we waited on the bench.
Not half a minute had gone by when Moises came back. “Yeah man, they won’t let me go. They said they want me home. They aren’t comfortable with me being out this late, especially since they know everything I’ve done, and they told me I should have let them know ahead of time that I was going out.”
“How do they know all the things you did?” asked Korey.
“I told them when I was in the program,” Moises responded.
“What are you retarded or something?” I asked, shocked.
“No man, I felt convicted,” said Moises. I respect that.
“Well, we could just work out here,” suggested Korey, “then go train.” We all looked at each other. Alex and Everett were quiet; they already knew what was about to go down, and I don’t think Moises took Korey seriously.
I responded casually, “Alright man let’s do it.”
Alex and Everett didn’t answer, and Korey started questioning Moises about his workouts. They discussed something about sets and supersets as I pounded away at my ice cream. I had begun to lose track of time, immersed in the delicious goodness of my frozen treat when suddenly, Everett started doing push-ups on the ground in front of me.
“We’re gonna do supersets; 25 push-ups, then 25 dips; Everett is starting, then I’ll go, then you go, then Moises,” said Korey, looking at me intensely, readying himself for a workout.
“Fuck that,” I said, “I’m just gonna start now.” I put down my ice cream and got perpendicular to Moises on the sidewalk as young drunk businessmen and scantily dressed provocative women walked around us inconveniently. I finished my push-ups and got up to do dips. Korey went down into his push-ups as Everett did dips next to me. Alex sat laughing on the bench while Moises just looked on, smiling and laughing a bit in awe. When we finished, I scooped my ice cream back up from Alex who had held it for me while I worked out, and again found myself lost in frozen goodness. Next thing I knew when I looked up was Moises giving me a high-five and pointing to a car 20 feet ahead of us to our left.
“That’s my parents,” he said, and I responded with a high-five hug and said my goodbyes. The four of us left the front of Kilwin’s and started walking around Las Olas, bullshitting about old times when we used to train here more often, and promising we’d come back to train here more often again when we stumbled across the cheesecake factory.
“Didn’t we eat here with Tim?” I asked Korey.
“Yeah man, good memory,” he responded.
“I miss him, man,” I said.
“Yeah I know, me too. He’s coming back to visit again soon. How sick is that gonna be?” he asked.
“Yeah man, I know. I’m excited,” I said back as we approached a clearance that was faintly familiar.
“Alex, haven’t we been here before?” I asked.
“Yeah, a while ago, like two years ago or something,” he responded.
The clearance was between a hotel and a small riverside restaurant behind the cheesecake factory, with a random structure in the middle that looked as if it could house an AC unit or water heater. Directly ahead of that was a walkway that ran horizontally in 3 columns with rails along its inclines, leading down to a concrete kicker on the open water into the New River. It was a beautiful place to sit and enjoy the view of the multimillion dollar yachts docked along the edges of the waterfront; their grandiosity trumping the wall runs we trained before stopping to rest on the edge of the water. Korey lay down on the kicker, relaxing as I sat next to him with my feet hung over the water, observing the tall buildings and magnificent boats. Everett was behind us with Alex balancing around on the rails and doing a few little precisions.
“Dang, look at that building, it’s crazy,” said Alex. His face pointed up at a high-rise occupancy that baffled the eyes and equilibrium if stared at out of focus against the mobile night clouds.
“Wow! That’s sick. It’s like it’s moving,” said Korey. I looked up and got dizzy from it, startled by the reality of a swaying skyscraper.
“I wonder how comfortable that guy is.” I heard from behind me as Alex changed the subject.
“What guy?” I asked. Alex pointed 30 yards away to a heavyset black man draped over stairs behind a backdoor with no shoes and ripped up clothes. He seemed unconscious, or sleeping or maybe both.
“He’s probably drunk, so he’s probably pretty comfortable,” Alex said with a grin, and we all laughed a little bit. I remembered back in the days when I would pass out drunk on stairs. Good times.
Korey spoke now, changing the subject, “Dude, look at those people across on the other side. What do you think they’d do if we just swim over there in our boxers and climb up there then walk away?”
“Fuck that,” I responded. “That water is too cold. I’m lucky to not be sick from last night.” The night before, Korey, Alex and I went to Deerfield beach at 2 A.M. during high tide, stripped down to our boxers, dropped into the 50-degree surf and fought the waves and the current as we did flutter-kicks, sit-ups, push-ups, and various flips. It was invigorating, and while Korey timidly dipped his toes in and out of the water, grimacing at the waves and the temperature, I charged headfirst into the ocean. I emerged laughing and screaming until he ran into the water as well. If Korey wanted to swim this distance to the other side, he’d jump in first this time, and I’d follow his example. “Screw that bro. Man up. I’m just worried about the rocks,” he added.
“Fuck rocks,” I said. “There’s probably sharks and stuff in there. We’re strong, but a shark would fuck us up.”
“Yeah, there are probably gators in there too,” added Alex.
“Yeah man,” I said, “saltwater gators are fucking monsters too.”
“That’s not even saltwater,” said Korey.
“How do you know?” I asked.
Everett chimed in suddenly, “I know there are manatees in there; I’ve seen them.”
“Yeah, manatees are cool, though. They’ll probably approach us expecting lettuce or something. People feed them lettuce,” I said in response. The thought of manatees in the water made me feel way better, plus manatees are freshwater mammals, right?
“What about those girls on the other side?” asked Korey.
“What about them?” I asked back.
“I bet you could get those girls’ numbers if we just swim over there in our boxers and just come out all buff and just talk to them,” he said.
“Bro, if I’ll do it, I’m doing it in jeans and shoes. I don’t wanna get cut up on the other side when we’re climbing our way out,” I replied.
“Yeah, that’s true,” said Alex “there’s probably rocks and stuff all over the place over there.”
“Well, whatever, man. Forget the girls then. Let’s just do it anyway. You want to?” Korey asked.
“I don’t know man. Its’ scary, and dark,” I said.
“Yeah, I know. I hate dark water. I’m scared of that too. I’m just over-thinking it,” Korey said. I got up from where I was sitting, joining Korey in his pacing around the edge. We were both getting ourselves amped up, and I took off my shirt and threw it on the ground.
“Fuck it bro; that’s step one. We’re one step closer now that I got my shirt off,” I said.
He laughed back, “Man, I’m freaking scared. I just gotta do it, you know?”
He got down on one knee and started lacing his shoe; tying them both tighter before standing up to take off his shirt and give everyone high-fives. I stood at the edge, looking at him as he looked back at me, smiling. He took five steps back from the edge, turned around, and with a full sprint, charged into the water, swimming as fast as he could to the other side. Immediately I stepped back a little, cleared my mind off all thoughts and charged into the water after him; maybe ten yards behind. My feet left the ground, and I watched the water rush towards me as if in slow motion, dreading the cold that I knew was inevitable to follow. I hit the water, and the liquid instantly filled every fiber of my clothing with weight and coldness. I looked ahead at Korey almost halfway across already and started sprint-swimming to catch up. I wanted to catch up to him so we could cheer each other on as we swam. I heard cheers coming from somewhere motivating us to keep swimming, from the front or the back, I wasn’t sure. I began to get out of breath from swimming too fast and sacrificed my ability to motivate myself and Korey for a few more breaths of much slower swimming. I slowed to a mild paddle, realizing the full weight of my shoes and trying to keep as much air in my lungs as possible to alleviate the drag I felt from my clothes and shoes and continued to swim. At a comfortable pace, I looked ahead and saw that I was almost halfway there. This swim could have been much easier than I thought. Maybe when we get to the other side, I’ll challenge Korey to swim back with me. Fuck, maybe we’ll go for a swim in general and enjoy the rush of the cold water.
I looked ahead at the splashes Korey was making and was getting ready to yell for him to slow down and pace himself when all of a sudden, he stopped moving. “Oh my God, I can’t swim! Help! I can’t swim! Oh my God!” he called out.
I was angry for a second that Korey would joke around like that. The people on the other side yelled at me, “Should we call somebody!” I yelled back at them.
“No! He’s just kidding!” Turning my head and direction to Korey, I yelled at him, “Korey, stop joking around man! That’s not funny!”
But the splashes got more violent as he bobbed up and down in the water and he yelled back, “No, seriously! Please, somebody, help me! I can’t swim! Help!”
I yelled back at him as I swam, “Korey, you have to just relax man! Hold your breath; it’ll help you up!”
The people on the other side of the river started panicking and screaming “Oh my God! Do something! Help him!”
“I’m trying!” I yelled back, inching closer and closer to Korey’s violent struggle.
“Call somebody! Call the cops now!” I yelled. “Somebody come help me! I’m not strong enough to lift him alone! Help me please!” I yelled again, but nobody jumped in to help. I finally reached Korey just as his head was submerging below the dark glistening water. He grabbed my wrist as I reached out for his arm, dragging me under with him. I used the arm he caught on to get underneath him, kicking and pushing up with all the strength and force I had. I felt my hand break the surface with his grip still around my wrist, and I knew his head was back up above the water. My legs were burning from the push to get him back up above the water, and my throat and chest were trying to take in anything they could to fill up. I knew if I didn’t get to the surface myself that very second, that I would have to give in and breathe in water. So I forced my wrist out of his grip and pushed him up and away as hard as I could, so I could get to the surface for air. When my head broke the surface, I opened my eyes and gasped for breath, immediately relaxing all my body and going to my back to use the breath I’d just taken to float and recover.
I looked at Korey and yelled at him, “Korey, you have to get to your back and hold your breath! It’ll make you float!” Immediately, I took in another gasp to replace the one I’d let out to try and instruct him. He looked at me with a look of terror, his eyes wide, and his face scrunched up trying to avoid taking in water. He started to lean back, tilting his head backward and gasping for air, trying to do what he could to float on his back as I’d instructed. Floating myself, I began to drift away from him in the current. Just as he began to get into the proper position to float, his head submerged again, followed by his hands. The pale glow of his body faded quickly, second by second, into the darkness below. I swam back against the current to where he was and reached down to try and grab him again, but I felt nothing; just water bubbles coming up to disturb the clear section in which he sank. Terror and shock overcame me at the fact that I’d lost him, and the calm I felt in the water seemed louder and more prominent to me than any screams or splashes made by Korey seconds before. There’s no fucking way I just lost my best friend. Korey didn’t drown; he’s going to come back up to the surface struggling any second.
“Fuck!” I screamed.
“Fuck! He’s gone! He’s gone! Fuck! Fuck!”
The current swept me down the river. I swam sideways to the closest yacht, grabbing the edge and trying to pull myself over. I wasn’t strong enough to pull my whole body, so I pulled my head up and extended a hand deeper into the yacht and did a climbed up into the boat.
“Fuck!” I screamed again.
I jumped the guard rail of the yacht and jumped from the dock to the street, running down the edge of the bay with my hands on my head. My eyes scoured the surface as I ran, begging for a head to pop up so I could jump back in and get him.
“Please Korey, please man. Come back up, Korey please!” I repeated over and over again, screaming at the glossy black surface of the intercoastal.
I ran back to the yacht to look at the water there. I saw Alex standing ten feet away dripping wet, barefoot and shirtless.
“Where is he?” he screamed in terror, his hands on his head, shivering and gasping to catch his breath. I watched it rise into the air with each word like smoke out of his mouth.
“He’s fucking gone dude! He’s fucking gone. He went under. He’s gone!” Alex let out a sob as my hands went to cover my face.
“Fuck!” I screamed out again in anger.
“Fuck!” I continued to scream several times more.
A couple walking down the street approached us with looks of concern.
“Call an ambulance!” I yelled.
“They are on their way,” they said to me. I began to hear the sirens scream across the water.
“What happened?” the woman asked, her hand rested delicately on my shoulder.
“My friend went under; he’s fucking gone! I tried to save him, but I wasn’t strong enough! Fuck!”
I couldn’t tell if I was crying or not. All I knew was anger, and my face was too wet to distinguish between water and tears if there were any.
My heart and my mind knew silence. As the ambulance arrived, and the police, detectives and search and rescue filled the area, my mind went blank. Empty, save for the silence; it was playing over and over again in my head. Every painful second, we gasp for air in between trips underneath to grab Korey. He was slippery like wet plastic, and his body wouldn’t move with mine, no matter how hard I tried. I would have a good grip, and his nails would be digging into my skin, and I would push into nothing and not even move. A split second visual visited me of the blackness beneath our feet as I watched my feet kick underneath us. It was like being suspended in the sky, terrified of the height and dark, falling all the same.
A man in plain clothes approached me and introduced himself as a detective. He had Korey’s phone and wallet in one hand, his t-shirt in the other. They asked if I was drunk and I was asked to contact Korey’s wife and explain what happened. I tried talking to her, but she didn’t respond well. I lost my patience and handed the phone to a female detective who mediated the situation.
I was cold now, shaking, and watching the water. I had expected Korey to pop up any second, for there to be a sigh of relief, for it to be all over. Instead, I was taken to a police vehicle where they recorded my statement.
Alex’s parents drove me home in my wet jeans and shoes.
Korey’s body was recovered four hours later.
I still train the way Korey and I did those two weeks leading up to his death. If death didn’t scare me then, I would certainly welcome it now with open arms. I have learned that death is a part of life, and while I lack any faith or altruism I once had (I will forever be bitter at the circumstances of Korey’s death), I have certainly gained a sense of existence – a greater appreciation for life and everything in it. Once you have known death; once you have seen it, and I mean truly seen it, the volume of everything else in existence is toned down a bit.
I look back on that night and often wonder if I made a mistake in not dying with him. Part of me asks if I failed him that night, if I should have jumped back in or tried harder to stop him from swimming. I could have held his hand all the way down to the death, but instinct did not allow for it. For that, I will always feel selfish and embrace my humanity now.
To me, all emotions are necessary to maintain balance and appreciation. I have learned that life is too short to neglect the negative feelings and deny them. Without things like pain, anger, fear, and greed, how could we possibly recognize the beauty of love?
This story is a segment written by Julian Vazquez from his upcoming novel Count Me Down; the story of how Korey’s life (and death) intersected with that of his own, and the impact that he had on an entire community.
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