To the Editor:
I was on my way down to Great Rock Bight [Swimmers rescued from boulder off Great Rock Bight, August 4] with three siblings and a friend on August 2, when we encountered a hysterical woman on the road down to the trailhead. At first glance, I thought she was laughing, but soon realized she was in trouble.
“My husband is drowning,” she yelled at us, a frantic look in her eyes. Frozen at the wheel, I stared back at her. “I’m on the phone with 911 and my husband is down there drowning.”
Before I had a chance to react, my passenger urged me forward, “Let’s go, man.”
I hit the gas, leaving the woman where she stood.
In the next few seconds, a plan developed among us, almost instinctually. He would go, I would park, and then we would follow. Before I passed the sign at the top of the trail, my Australian mate opened the door and started running down the half-mile trail to the beach. My siblings, visiting from Montague, ages 16, 14, and 11, followed me down the trail as we ran to support Pat and the drowning man.
Half way down, I asked my 11-year-old brother, Carson, “You okay?” He breathed, “Yeah.” Then, thinking I might have to leave them to catch up, told my other brother and sister, “Just keep running down, all the way down.”
All of a sudden, a man emerged from the bushes in front of us, where I saw a white SUV parked in the woods, much closer to the beach than where we left our car. We followed him down, noting the EMS insignia on the backpack he was wearing and his calm and steady demeanor. I knew he was a professional and didn’t want to get in his way; we were just there to help. As we rounded the last corner and ran down the steps to the beach, to great relief, we witnessed our mate, a big handful of EMS, police, and firefighters, along with some beachgoers, a rescue boat at the rock, and another one on the way. It was quite the scene. The Chilmark community’s response in the immediate aftermath of the call for help was outstanding. I’m impressed and proud to live in a place with such strong community members.
Yesterday, I walked down to Great Rock Bight again, and this time I noticed a couple of changes. At the bottom of the path where the staircase leads to the sand, there is now a lifeguard’s buoy and a couple of reinforced steps painted with the word “Caution.” This was great to see, but then my mate stepped through the second step from the top. He’s a strong young lad and bounced back quickly, uninjured.
I wish I could say the same for the step. The weathered, half rotten piece of wood was no longer able to bear the weight of a man eager to get to the beach. And while we’re on the topic of rotting wood, might I draw your eyes up to the trees along the path, featuring among songbirds and sunshine, numerous heavy, hanging, broken pieces of dead wood leaning in the wind.
So, here’s to being prepared, helping others, and hopefully beating the drum to the beat, staying healthy and safe, and living long, happy lives.