The sun was still high in the sky that late afternoon as sunbathers took in the last rays of the day and volleyball competitors battled over nets, a happy sand-and-seascape.
But it would soon turn to incredible sadness.
I’ve written much about the loss of life on our Long Beach shore, but mostly it was about shorebirds and whales. Now, we’ve lost human life in its springtime.
It was technically still spring, June 19th, when the young lads headed to our Long Beach shore that afternoon. The brothers, one eleven, the other ten, headed from Hempstead to Long Beach for some fun in the surf and sun.
The kids played in the surf near the Edwards jetty to the sounds of volleyball whomps and the screech of gulls.
But as the sea became rough and the current started to pull, they struggled towards shore. But only the eleven-year-old was able to get to the sand and safety. When he looked back he saw his brother submerged in the surf… never to see him again.
It’s far from the first time that tragedy such as this has happened here, the loss of human life on our sunny shore, nor sadly will it be the last. It happens here and all over our risky planet. Too often, needlessly.
But we can limit the toll of death by drowning.
So many times have I seen our Beach Staff admonish bathers to heed the signs, “No Swimming When Lifeguards Not on Duty.” And to warn jetty climbers to heed, “Keep off Jetties”,
But back they come, these heedless, again and again…summer and winter,
Ocean bathing does carry some risk, depending on conditions, but safety at our beach grows enormously when lifeguards are on duty. Common sense tells us to follow the dictates of the signs. But common sense is too often…uncommon.
The lifeguards were not on duty that fatal afternoon, they are only on duty weekends this time of year.
(Lifeguards are on duty, weather permitting, from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. weekends May 7, 2018 – June 17, 2018 (including Memorial Day Monday) and daily June 23, 2018 – September 3, 2018.)
Lifeguards do respond when duty calls whether off-duty or on, But the race to save a life is so needless…if people just followed the rules.
So, that afternoon and evening and all the next day too, searchers tried to locate the missing lad…to no avail.
Long Beach Police, Fire and Rescue, Coast Guard, and countless other nearby agencies and those from very far joined the search. But the young man was gone.
After some time…hope turned to despair…rescue turned to recovery.
Humankind has always suffered loss to the sea,
and I’m sad to say it will always be.
But one or two might survive, might stay alive,
If we obeyed the rules
by the sand and the sea.
Be well, be safe,