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Family photo
Lucy Mangum's toes poke through the cast on her leg at a hospital in North Carolina. Lucy was attacked by a shark last week while playing in shallow water.

A shark attack sent the lives of Craig, Jordan and Lucy Mangum into commotion last week.

This week, it’s the national media.

Amid the cameras and interview requests, they are counting their blessings.

“It’s been a whirlwind, but we’ve caught our breath and I think we’re OK,” Jordan said in a phone interview.

The national press took notice when the Mangums and some friends had a scary moment at Ocracoke Island in North Carolina on Tuesday, July 19. In the late afternoon, the Mangum’s 6-year-old daughter, Lucy, was playing on a boogie board in shallow water when a shark swam up. Lucy tried to swim away, but the shark viciously bit her leg. The little girl was treated at the scene by her father, who is an emergency room doctor, and eventually flown to Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville, N.C.

Despite severe damage to her leg, Lucy is expected to make a full recovery.

“She was protected," Jordan said. "Her surgeon said she was within a fraction of a millimeter of having her nerve severed, which would have meant amputation. Ninety percent of her muscle was severed, as well as 90 percent of her Achilles' tendon, and one of the main arteries in her leg was severed. You can’t get much closer than that. To me, it’s just a miracle. She was truly being watched over.

When it appeared things were going to turn out OK, the family opened the door to the reporters and cameras. The Mangums participated in a press conference for local media, appeared on NBC’s “Today” show and consented to a few other interview requests from CBS News and other outlets.

One detail revealed in the “Today” interview with Ann Curry that continues to pop up is how Lucy decided to forgive the shark for biting her.

“We had discussed that the shark didn’t mean to bite her, it was an accident. He thought she was a fish,” Jordan said. “(Monday night) it was just me and her in her bed. She said, ‘I don’t care that the shark bit me, I forgive him.’ It was just the sweetest thing out of the blue that she decided to do that.”

Craig and Jordan are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jordan is from Provo, Utah. She and her husband both graduated from BYU. Their faith, family and friends have helped them survive this scary experience.

“We are grateful for the prayers. Everyone has been so supportive,” she said. “The prayers have been felt. We have never had mass amounts of people praying for us, but those prayers have carried us through that difficult experience.”

A shark attack was the last thing Jordan expected that day. The sun was shining, the temperature was perfect and the water was crystal clear, she said. The mother of four was standing 10 feet from her daughter when she screamed. She saw the 5-foot shark and immediately went to pull her children from the water. She figured her daughter was afraid. Then she noticed Lucy’s leg and the blood in the water.

In the tense moments following the attack, Craig, Jordan and Lucy huddled together while they waited for the paramedics. That’s when the young girl suggested they say the first prayer.

“She was an example to us. She was the first to think of saying a prayer,” Jordan said. “It was a tender moment.”

Craig and a family friend also gave Lucy a priesthood blessing before she was transported to the hospital.

The Mangums are friends of Christian and Stephanie Nielson, a couple that was involved in a serious plane crash in 2008. Stephanie was burned on 80 percent of her body and her recovery has been long, difficult and inspirational to many.

“I don’t know if I could be as strong as she has been, but discovering Lucy in the water with her leg torn up … was so surreal,” Jordan said. “Heavenly Father really steps in and guides your actions. I am amazed at the strength that comes when you need it.”

One lesson Jordan has learned in the course of this experience is that parents need to swallow their own fear and be there for their children.

"She asked if she was going to die. I told her everything would work out, 'You will be fine,'" Jordan said. "Children need that sense of comfort. They look to you to offer that to them. Parents need to keep a level head."

The family is home now and catching up on sleep. For more on the Mangums and their experience, Jordan has written and posted photos on her blog.

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