A beach vacation is supposed to be a quiet escape from reality. For Julia Mittelberg, her visit to Holden Beach was anything but. The Illinois woman did not expect this. “I felt like something was grabbing me really quick, and it chomped down for a second bite. I realized those were teeth and I swam away as fast as I could and was screaming very loud,” described Mittelberg. That chomp, was a shark bite. It is a threat not often thought about on a trip to the beach. But off many area beaches, it is swimmer beware. “There are no lifeguards here,” said Holden Beach Police Chief Wally Layne. “It is swim at your own risk, which is pretty much the way it is in the state of North Carolina.” One day later at the scene of the attack, swimmers still ventured into the water, not phased by the threat of sharks. Vacationer Stanley Jones said, “The sharks were here yesterday, just like they are today and just like they will be tomorrow. And probably this water's the safest on the coast today, because how many times do you hear of getting bit twice?” But sharks are not the only seaside danger posed by Mother Nature. Chief Layne said he is more concerned about the high risk of rip currents than he is about shark bites. “You're much more likely to get caught in a rip current than get bitten by a shark,” he said. While dozens of people lose their lives in rip currents off southeastern North Carolina each year, shark bites are rarely fatal. As far as Julia is concerned, she's recovering just fine. “I'm very thankful. The Lord has definitely blessed me. I have full mobility and sensation. So I'm very thankful for that,” she said. Julia is now on her way back to Illinois. She said she plans to make her annual trip to Holden Beach again next year.
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