“Buzz Lightyear got us through”

A wonderful story was reported yesterday where a father and his autistic son were rescued after having been swept out to sea. They survived some 15 hours in shark and jellyfish infested waters by calling out lines from… wait for it… Disney movies.

Yup, Walter’s son Christopher watches a lot of Disney movies and is largely non-verbal so to maintain a connection with him while in the water, especially after darkness fell, he’d yell out things like “to infinity and beyond!” After drifting apart enough to where he couldn’t hear his son anymore, Walter reconciled himself to the worst, that his son was dead, but fought on to stay alive for the sake of his daughter.

He eventually was rescued, and soon after, the Coast Guard found his son, very much alive. Walter actually credits his son for helping him get through it:

“His lack of fear was calming to me,” Marino said. “He was on an adventure — I mean, he was laughing. It was just a day in the ocean to him. It wasn’t until the jellyfish started stinging that he started to freak out a little bit.”

Marino also offered a shout-out to the animated superhero who helped him communicate with his son. “Buzz Lightyear got us through,” he said.

Rescue team member David Birky said he was awed at Christopher’s resolve. “That kid is an amazing kid,” Birky said. “To tread water for almost 14 hours — I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could do that. They have amazing willpower to be able to do it.”

Great story, but I can’t help but be amazed at how out of the ordinary this sounds. Where’s the God talk? Where’s Jesus? “Amazing willpower”? The kid is amazing, all by himself? No divine help? See, this is how these stories normally read:

Lost at sea with nothing to hold onto amid a dreadful darkness, Florida resident Walter Marino continually called out some of the few words his 12-year-old autistic son Christopher responds to.

“I’d be screaming, ‘Have mercy on me, O God!’” Marino said, referring to Psalm 51, one of Christopher’s favorites from the Bible. “Then I would hear him and it would be more and more and more distant, until finally I couldn’t hear anything.”

Miraculously, father and son’s prayers were answered as they survived the night, thanks in part to good Samaritans and the U.S. Coast Guard. Walter and Christopher Marino, along with Walter’s daughter Angela and the children’s mother, Robin Bishop, beamed their way through a joyous interview with Matt Lauer on TODAY Wednesday.

Walter, Christopher and Angela were enjoying a family day at the beach at the Ponce Inlet south of Daytona Sept. 6. Late in the afternoon, Christopher was swimming near his father when he got caught in a current, and his dad paddled rapidly to retrieve him.

“We were both just sucked out,” Marino told Lauer. “The forces just took us out so quickly, it totally took me by surprise.”

On the beach, Angela could no longer see her father and brother and quickly called 911. The Coast Guard and the Volusia County Beach Patrol launched a search-and-rescue effort, but were unable to locate the pair and called off the search when darkness set in.

Meanwhile, Walter and Christopher treaded water while looking at each other face to face. Christopher, who is largely nonverbal, “spends most of his time leafing through his illustrated Bible,” explained his father, and Walter kept calling out Christopher’s favorite passages, including Psalms 51.

As the hours ticked off in the dark night, Walter could no longer hear his son, but he never doubted whether his son was ok.

“I knew in my heart he was ok,” Marino told Lauer. “Knowing that and having faith God would save us was what got me through.”

Around 7:30 a.m. the next morning, fishermen spotted a glint in the water from Walter’s necklace and rescued him. With the fate of Christopher still unknown at the time, Walter maintained hope of finding his son alive.

After nearly two hours, the Coast Guard asked Marino to come on deck where they pointed to the helicopter and said, ‘See that helicopter over there? That has your son, and he’s fine.’

While an animated Marino showered his rescuers with thanks, appreciation — and yes, kisses — he also cited plucky Christopher as a hero, saying the boy actually helped his father get through the nightmare ordeal.

“His lack of fear was calming to me,” Marino said. “Clearly God was with him the whole time, protecting him and stealing away his fear.” He then added, “God got us through”.

Rescue team member David Birky said he was awed at Christopher’s resolve. “To tread water for almost 14 hours — I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could do that. It’s quite a miracle.”

Now you KNOW, had the article gone like that, this would be hailed as proof of God, Jesus, the power of prayer, miracles, the whole shabang. So does this mean then, following the logic, that the actual story is proof of the power of Disney? Is Walt Divine? Maybe Jobs (Toy Story was a Pixar production)? Should people replace those St. Christopher medals or dashboard Jesuses with Buzz Lightyears? Should Buzz be my co-pilot? Can the Mouse provide miracles?

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11 Responses to ““Buzz Lightyear got us through””

  1. Fandamntastic! I had read the news story last night, and the fact that God/Jesus/Holy Spirit/Santa/Easter Bunny was NOT invoked passed me by. You are correct, though. If he had recited the Lord’s Prayer, or even The Night Before Christmans, to keep in contact, it would be getting double the coverage with the god(s) angle dominating.

  2. Philly,

    Oh please, this is obviously just another fundogelical attempt to smuggle god into the press. Disney is God, God is Disney, and his son, Jesus Disney, is living secretly at Scientology headquarters from where he makes up press stories like this. I’m surprised you could fall for such a transparent ruse.

  3. Now I know what it means when people drink and say they got a Buzz. It’s sort of like getting filled by the Holy Ghost. Thanks for clearing that up for me.

  4. Great post.

    I can just see it now:
    What a Friend We Have in Buzz
    Onward, Disneyite Soldiers
    Rockin’ around the Lightyear Tree

    I suppose hell in Lightyearism would be an eternity stuck in a sealed package in the toybox.

  5. Damn, I meant to read and respond to this last week. Where’s my manners?

    You missed the obvious, though, Philly. What are the first 6 letters in little Christopher’s name?

    See. They’ll get it in there somehow.

  6. Well, I saw we all bow at the altar of Pixar!

    I’ve seen more morals in those movies than in all the years I’ve spent in religion.

  7. Well of course Pixar was headed by the true Messiah, Steve Jobs. ;)

    Of course “The Mouse” is a god, one loved and revered by many, and no doubt many people have stories associated with family trips to the holy lands of Disney. The important point is all of the pleasures, the increased meanings to some people’s lives, the effects on individuals and families visiting these places or watching the movies, and certainly this story all show that these things are man made, just like religion.

  8. As far as Disney vs. Religion goes:

    Disney makes far better hot dogs and toys, and when you wave at the characters they actually wave back.

    On the other hand, Religion’s “Journey to Hell” ride is much scarier than anything in Anaheim or Orlando.

  9. Well there is He’brew beer and Hebrew National hot dogs, but the other religions really can’t compete so yeah, I’d say Disney wins, although they need a beer. I think they should use Goofy as a mascot for that.

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  11. Which history of philosophy would you recommend, then?

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