And the View From the Beach
Last night I drove my mother to the beach before taking her home. It was cold and windy, but the sun had not quite slipped behind the fog bank headed in. When we parked the car we saw two boys to the south frolicking in the waves, deeper than I allowed my children. The one time Joshua went in chest deep I nearly had a heart attack. Of course I thought of the teenager who lost his life last summer at the same spot.
There are signs posted along the beach approaches here warning tourists of what the locals already know. There are rip tides that will suck even the strongest swimmers out to sea and on their way to Japan before they know it. Generally it is the person who goes in to assist a struggling swimmer who ends up perishing so having a parent or grandparent standing on the beach is not assurance of safety. One year five girls got out past the breakers and began to struggle. The grandfather of one of the girls went in to help. The Ocean Park Fire Department managed to get the girls in safely, but grandpa was unconscious when pulled from the water by the Coast Guard. He was Life Flighted to Harborview in Seattle where he later died. Last evening was by no stretch a warm evening and in any case the Pacific Ocean off the State of Washington is always cold. If the rip tide does not get you, hypothermia will.
I watched the boys as I walked the dog and after I got back in the car. Normally we’d sit there and listen to KMUN’s “Where’s My Pajamas?” program. It was nearly time for the show to start and I was relieved that the two boys seemed to be heading in. Then I realized that there were three more males bobbing around in the water and the first two headed back out. All were diving into the waves and very nearly out as far as the farthest breaker. I could not decide if the other folks standing on the beach were the parents or even with these youngsters.
I texted my husband who was on the graveyard shift at Seattle Flight Service and asked what the tide was doing. It was going out. Despite the fact that I have decided opinions regarding child rearing I try to not interfere with people’s parenting styles, but the two people standing on the beach, if in fact they were the parents, didn’t know what they were doing. Then I couldn’t believe my eyes when the male figure moved into the ocean with a very small boy! I dialed 911.
I explained to the dispatcher that while none of the boys or man in the water appeared to be struggling; that I was concerned that the tide was going out and that they were very near to being beyond the breakers. The dispatcher said she would send an officer. To my relief by the time he arrived they were coming out of the water. I explained my concern to the officer who had a little talk with the parents. My hope is that those parents will be more careful of their passel of boys and that someone is around the next time an unwary tourist decides to take a swim. Swimming on the Long Beach Peninsula ought to be confined to the motel swimming pools.
The ocean is a beautiful and powerful lady which is what calls us down to her shore. Her power must be respected. To those of you planning a get-away to the Washington coast, be smart and stay safe.