Survivor shares shark tale at Huxford
Published 3:24 pm Monday, October 3, 2005
By By Adam Prestridge
Chuck Anderson is all too familiar with overcoming the odds.
On June 9, 2000, while swimming in Gulf Shores near the Pink Pony Pub, a seven and half foot, 325-pound bull shark attacked the then 45-year-old Frisco City native. Despite losing his arm during the struggle with the ferocious sharp-toothed fish, the Summerdale resident has made light of the incident and shared his story with students at Huxford Elementary School on Friday.
"When I laugh and make fun of myself the kids are more comfortable and interested in my story; it's a pretty gruesome story," he said. "I try to make light of it. It's extremely interesting to these kids. We've all been in the Gulf before and have always wondered what's out there. Thanks to me, we know what's out there."
Anderson, who serves as athletic director for Baldwin County Public Schools and was head football coach at Robertsdale High School for four years, was training for a triathlon when the shark attacked him. He relived the day with several of the classes at Huxford.
"The shark came from the bottom and attacked me four separate times," Anderson explained. "The first time he hit me about thigh high and rolled me around in the water. The second time he came from the bottom and I tried to push off him and he took all four of my fingers off my right hand. The third time he bumped me in the stomach and left a shark tooth scar and a big gash in my stomach. The fourth time, I was going to try to push off him again, but my right arm went into his mouth and he drug me straight down to the bottom, threw me around and came up to the surface with me still attached to him and pushed me all the way to the beach. He was laying completely down the right side of my body, on top of me and I tried to wiggle my hand out or jerk my arm out of his mouth and it stripped it down to the bone and my hand popped off in his mouth. From the sand bar we were stuck on, I fell backwards and ran to the beach from there."
The shark attack was the first recorded off the Alabama coastline in history.
"I was very fortunate that I didn't bleed out," Anderson said. "I had about 15.5 units of blood in my body and when I got to the hospital I had a little less than five units."
Anderson underwent several surgeries for months following the attack. Doctors were able to save two and a half inches of his arm below his elbow. He said he was fortunate that doctors were able to save that portion of his arm, which enables him to use prosthetics.
"I've got all kinds of stuff, but I don't use them," Anderson said. "They just get in the way."
The staff at Huxford Elementary was very pleased at the message Anderson sent to their students.
"I thought he did a wonderful job," guidance counselor Carol Middleton said. "We're focusing a lot of our efforts at the school on character education and so much of what he talked about just fit right in with our programs. Perseverance is what stuck in my mind most."
Anderson said teaching children perseverance is the main reason he shares his story with children throughout schools in Alabama.
"I just share my story with them and share my attitude with them that things could be worse," he said. "Everyday is a new experience for me. Losing your right arm isn't nearly as significant as losing my life. If that shark would have bitten a chunk out of my side, the good Lord wouldn't have given me the opportunity to see my wife and two children again. I look at it in a positive sense. I have There's nothing in life you can't do without a right arm, you just have to learn to do it a little bit different than you used to."
The 50-year-old has proven that he has learned to do things differently since losing his arm. He started the Salt Lake City Olympic torch run in Alabama in 2002 from Mobile.
His story has also been featured on several television shows including the Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live, Good Morning America, Discovery and Dateline NBC. There have also been stories written about Anderson's perseverance in Time Magazine, People magazine and National Geographic.
Anderson said he was most grateful to be able to live to see his children, Laura, 20, and Sam, 18, again. In fact, when his story was being featured on television, he didn't do them without his children by his side.
"Everybody we've met has been incredibly nice," Anderson said. "I don't travel without my kids and it's been a great opportunity for them to meet a lot of famous people and visit some really nice places."