Last Man In the Water/Story and Lyrics

Tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of the Air Florida crash in Washington, DC, in which 74 passengers and the flight crew were killed. Pilots failed to utilize the de-icing capacity aboard the plane which, combined with the heavy snow and ice, caused the plane to crash into the frozen Potomac River.

The following story is about the real person the song, “Last Man in the Water”, was written about. I wrote the song after my friend, Neil, sent me an article about Mr. Williams, and my friends, Mike and Ginger, are helping me to record the song at Tequila Mockingbird with Marty, my dear friend and life long engineer.

I wanted to share this information about him with you all, via Wikipedia’s description online:

“Aboard that flight was Arland D. Williams Jr., a 46-year old bank examiner with the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta, Georgia. On January 13, 1982, he was one of only six survivors aboard when Air Florida Flight 90 crashed.

Bystanders, news media, and rescue personnel on the bridge and shore were helpless to reach the survivors. The only hope of rescue was a police helicopter, but it arrived about 20 minutes after the crash.

As the rescue helicopter hovered overhead, Mr. Williams repeatedly grabbed hold of the swaying lifeline and selflessly passed it to other survivors clinging to the wreckage. It is doubtful whether any of the other victims could have been rescued without Mr. Williams’ help. However, by the time the helicopter returned on a final trip to rescue him, he had already drowned.
Williams was posthumously awarded the United States Coast Guard’s Gold Lifesaving Medal by President Ronald Reagan. An important bridge was renamed for him, and The Citadel established several memorials. The new Arland D. Williams Jr. Elementary School in Mattoon was dedicated to his memory in August, 2003.”

In honor of Mr. Williams, I dedicate the following lyrics, and I hope to always share his selfless courage at every show in which I sing….When this recorded version
is finished, I hope to sell the recording at shows and raise money for an award that each year will be given to someone who has shown courage in the face of great danger:
A hero in our midst…I will let you know when the song is available…

Last Man In the Water
by Sara Hickman

Once upon a time I had a day
Seemed everything was going my way
I was the type who did believe
It couldn’t happen to me

Looking back on how it all got started
I never knew I’d be so open hearted
Here’s the part of the story
Where I have to say:
My life will never be the same…

Here, underneath the water…
I can see…
Here, underneath the water
I’m finally free….

I was the last man in the water
I was the one who saved your
Sons and daughters
And when they finally sent down
The last shred of rope
I saw my last hope wave goodbye…

I barely had time to think
I’d just sat down and I just got my drink
I heard an awful sound and the world caught fire…
Freezing water swirling all around
I saw it pull a young couple down
My fingers cold, my body numb
Revelations for everyone…

Here, underneath the water
Oh, I can see….
Here, underneath the water
Life’s bigger than me….

I was the last man in the water
Yea, I’m the one who saved your
Sons and daughters
And when they finally sent down
The last shred of rope
I saw my last hope wave goodbye…

What would you do…in my shows….
When you’ve got everythin to lose…
I gave away my sweet, sweet right to life….
But I don’t regret
This final sacrifice….

There were maybe four or five of us…
Three began to pray, one began to cuss
Who knew who’d be saved, and who was through?
Time was tickin’, man, it sure can fly
When life is passin’, before your eyes
You realize what you have got to do….

So, you become the last man in the water
Yea, you’re the one who saves the sons and daughters
And when they finally send down
The last shred of rope
You’ll see your last hope

One Comment “Last Man In the Water/Story and Lyrics”

  • David


    Just exchanged an article & note with Ms. Sara about this… She & I have had a moment or two over this song — which is an amazing song in & of itself, regardless of the source. The first time I heard her perform it live, the whole idea of it brought me to tears & she had to look away from me to perform it (it was a small intimate venue in Austin).

    Personally, I will never forget the day of this crash, as won’t many who were in/around Washington, DC & perhaps even the rest of the nation that day. Schools were closed & businesses closed early that day. Many people were stuck in traffic because of this & this was not the only fatal accident that day —- but the only one due to the weather. It was also the first fatal accident for Washington DC’s Metro — which the NTSB was en route to investigate as this accident happened. (If you look this story up on Wiki, you can read more about all the related information & reports.)

    Anyway, the story of this man is inspiring & the situation truly tragic. I hope everyone has the opportunity to hear Sara’s song. Although we all make choices regularly, I hope few of us are ever put into a position to make the kind of decision (in a life/death sort of way) that is the root of the story & song.

    Here is a link to an anniversary story which speaks to more of the “good” that came of that day. One more set of gifts from this tragedy. I wish for any & all such ‘wrongs’ to be so ‘right’-ed!

    Thank you Sara for capturing all this as you have. Best to everyone!


    A Crash’s Improbable Impact
    ’82 Air Florida Tragedy Led To Broad Safety Reforms

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