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February 24, 2015
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The harrowing story of the 19 manatees that got stuck in a Florida drainpipe, in their own words.

Early this morning, 19 manatees were rescued from a drainpipe in Florida. Here, in their own words, the aquatic mammals who have been dubbed “The Drainpipe 19” describe the harrowing ordeal:


Ian Chalmers, 21

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I don’t think any of us realized we were in trouble until it was too late.”

Tabitha Werner, 29

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As a manatee, you often get trapped in this non-stop, go-go mindset where you’re always thinking, ‘what if there’s some really great kelp in there? I’d hate to miss out on that.’ And then something like this happens, and it makes you realize what’s really important.”

Esteban Lopez, 35

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The pipe started getting narrower and narrower, and I started to get a really bad feeling. It was the same feeling I got last Summer, right before my head got stuck in a bucket.”

Chad Dooley, 19

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Am I still a little shaken up? Yes, I am. Am I going to let something like this stop me from snuffling around inside of dark places looking for vegetation to munch on? Hell no.”

Janet Quinlan, 43

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Well, to be totally honest, it was my idea to go into the pipe. And goddamn our species for its loyalty—every last one of those beautiful bastards followed me without a second’s hesitation.”

[Name Not Given]

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Look, what’s done is done, okay? I have nothing more to say about this. Stop bothering me.

Nate Dern, 30 (and family)

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You worry so much about keeping your kids out of the way of boat propellers and making sure they don’t eat fish hooks that sometimes you miss the really obvious stuff, like how easy it is to accidentally get everyone stuck in a drainpipe. But no one ever said being a single father was all peaches and cream.”

Alison Estrada, 18

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I had already been in the pipe for a couple of days.”

Thomas and Winifred Klinman-Smith

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We were actually considering getting a divorce before this happened, but the experience brought us closer together and made us remember why we fell in love in the first place.”

Vince Manatee, 24

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In a lot of ways, it’s actually been a blessing because it has allowed me to bring much-needed attention to manatee-human partnerships, which are just as loving and committed as traditional romantic relationships. Vote ‘Yes’ on Prop 71!”

Zakia Hossain, 7 (left)

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My mom says I was real brave, even though I peed when we were stuck in the pipe and some of the others got mad. But I don’t think I was the only one who peed in the pipe.”

Sammy Wolfson, 31

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You think, ‘this is it. It’s all over. I’m going to die in this pipe,’ and you come to peace with that. Then all of the sudden you’re saved, and it’s difficult to move on. Simple decisions become very difficult, because in some ways, in your mind, you’re already dead. But paradoxically, it’s also very liberating—it shows you how often fear has held you back from doing things your whole life, and that maybe this was the exact thing you needed to make lasting changes. I dunno. I guess I’m still processing it, is what I’m trying to say.”

Reginald St. Thomas, 38

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A lot of the other ‘tees are saying I was the one who ultimately blocked the end of the pipe so everyone else couldn’t get out, and I just want to say that that’s a bunch of horse shit.”

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