I live in a beach town on the Jersey shore which means that nearly every bar around here and some of the restaurants have an annual countdown clock to Memorial Day, the official start of the summer season. And this past weekend, summer was here. Air conditioners were turned on, lawn mowers were mowing, pool heaters were chugging, and wherever I drove, I stopped for beach-goers crossing the street with their coolers, their umbrellas, and their kids. We had all the wonderful sounds and smells (barbecues, suntan lotion) of summer.
But on Sunday, something terrible happened. Off the beach in the town just south of us, a 17-year-old boy who was swimming in the ocean disappeared and was swept to sea. That afternoon and into the night, helicopters hovered above restaurants where waiters uncorked bottles of wine for diners enjoying an ocean view. Searchers on the beaches and in boats mingled with swimmers and gathered around sand castles. An unusual number of police cars with flashing lights dotted the roadway up and down the coast and on the sand. While many people enjoyed the beach, one family’s heart was shattered beyond repair.
Today is Tuesday and the boy is still missing. The search has been suspended but life guards will continue searching, waiting and watching for the boy’s body to wash up. The weather today is warm and sunny, another glorious beach day. But my thoughts are with the parents and family of a kid who went swimming on Sunday and never came home.
Update: A body discovered Saturday in the ocean off Long Beach, N.J., has been identified as that of the missing teen, 17-year-old Rudy Mena. An emigre from the Dominican Republic, Rudy longed to join the Army and was a model member of Eastside High School’s JROTC. The day that he drowned was his first time in the ocean.