SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - "I was seeing the sun come down, and I knew it was going to be dark soon. That's when I got scared," said Juan Lara. "I was worried about my kids, worried about my family."
Juan and Yessica Lara have retold their story too many times to count since their family got stranded at sea Saturday night. However, this was the first time they shared their harrowing experience, and their thanks, with the Civil Air Patrol team that helped rescue them.
They met for the first time at Trent Lott International Airport after the Laras insisted they meet the two guys they believe saved their lives.
"He saved our lives. I had no telephone signal, no way to communicate, and I mean that was the only hope I had," said Juan.
The Lara's and their four sons, ages seven to 16, were on what started out to be a fun, relaxing fishing trip to Petite Bois Island. At the end of the day, when they were heading back home, the battery on their boat died (south of the barrier islands).
Suddenly, their relaxation time turned into desperation.
"I put the binoculars on them, and I could see clearly they were in trouble, waving their hands and life preservers," said Dayle Robinson.
Robinson was the observer on the Civil Air Patrol plane that pilot Danny Watson was flying during their weekend sundown patrol.
"Thank goodness we were in the right place at the right time," said Watson.
It was about 5:30 p.m. when the team spotted the Laras, but darkness fell quickly. It took nearly four hours for the air patrol to help direct a Department of Marine Resources boat to the location where the family was stranded at sea.
The air patrol never left the Lara's line of sight.
"Seeing the plane flying around gave me peace and gave peace to my children," said Yessica.
The darkness, combined with 15 foot waves, made it more difficult for the DMR boat to find and rescue them, but by 9:30 p.m. they were safe. That's why these two volunteers give their time for moments like this.
"Grateful we found them, and that we get to see them safe," said Robinson.
This is our paycheck, when stuff like this happens," said Watson.
Arriving home safely is a moment the Laras won't soon forget.
"It was a big relief. We got big hugs from our kids and went to sleep. It was peaceful. It was peaceful," said Yessica with a smile.