Letters to the Editor 2019

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To the Editor: 

I'm not sure how to tell this story because it isn't about me. It's about a man I never met, at least not while he was living.  

I met Joel Green just moments after his death, but by the look of his possessions he seemed to be a man who appreciated a quick dip in the ocean. My kind of guy.  

There was no chair, cooler, or umbrella, just a towel, shoes, and his watch, all blown over with sand. A simple pile of possessions the investigating officer marked as evidence.  

Only five minutes earlier, when I walked into the ocean, my eyes fell on something floating. We've all experienced it, spotting something in the water that usually turns out to be trash, but this time my mind couldn't make out what it was until the moment it did. Until the moment my brain said, 'Those are shorts and that's a head, and this is really happening.'  

I hoped to get him up on my boogie board, but I couldn't, so I grabbed his wrist and pulled. A wave helped turn him over and I yelled, "Breathe, buddy, breathe," but he just stared at the sky.  

I screamed to the people on the beach to call 911, but they couldn't hear me over the surf. When we got to the shallows, a man approached, asking, "What is it?" I said, "It's a human being."  

Instantly, a group of men sprang into action, giving Mr. Green CPR, and within minutes rescue teams arrived.  

"We watched him walk in," a woman said. "Only 20 minutes ago... if only we'd watched him." If only I'd gotten to the beach 10 minutes earlier, I thought. If only... 

The next day was gorgeous, and the beach was filled with families enjoying life together, but I could only think of the dangers lurking. With no lifeguards keeping watch and sinister rip tides hiding beneath the surface, disaster seemed imminent.  

I felt compelled to warn parents, "Watch your babies. Don't take your eyes off them. Two people died this week." I didn't know then that by the end of the day it would be three. 

Our weather is becoming more severe and ocean currents are becoming stronger. Sand dredging only exacerbates the situation.  

If local authorities don't have the resources to extend seasonal patrols, then, we, citizens need to look out for one another. We need to keep our eyes on the water and look for signs of distress.  

The time has come to put down our phones and look up. I didn't know Joel Green, but I know he was somebody's somebody. He was a son, and maybe a brother, or cousin, or friend, and to those that miss him, I offer my sincerest condolences.  

For those of us who tried to help him, I think I can safely say that we only wish we could have helped him more. 

 - Germaine Fountain, Wildwood Crest

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