Monday, October 29, 2012

Prayers For Seven Mile Island

I was planning to post something more introspective and deep, but I had to change gears and talk about something “deep” in a different way.

I had the day off work today and have been watching the Hurricane Sandy coverage. It’s surreal to see a news reporter standing at Battery Park in New York City overlooking the Statue of Liberty, a week shy of exactly a year after I photographed the same spot with my grandmother. As bad as the stuff they’re showing of New York and New Jersey is, they’re not showing the stuff they can’t get to. But some folks on Facebook have been…and my heart hurts for them.

South of Atlantic City, New Jersey, there is a place called the Seven Mile Island. It’s technically more of a peninsula, as you can see on the map. On the East side of it is the Atlantic Ocean. To its west is a bay and a network of inlets, salt marshes, canals and harbors. My family, on my mother’s side, has deep roots there. It was a favorite vacation spot of my great-grandparents from Pennsylvania, who passed it on to my grandparents, and shared the experience with my parents, and they shared it with me. To this day, a house my great-grandfather built in the town of Avalon in 1910 still stands. After today, I’d be surprised if it survives.

I spent many happy childhood summers there. I spent days fishing and crabbing off docks from dawn until dusk. I walked the streets and boardwalks with complete freedom. I was fascinated by the nature there, and remember my grandmother teaching me the names of all the different waterbirds there and what they did: gulls, pelicans, terns, ospreys. My dad would take my mom and I out on a boat for a day and we’d come back (usually) with the best fish dinner a family could ask for. I recall days at the beach with my grandparents when my granddad was still alive. My mom has a classic photo of me with my grandfather when I was about 4 years old, dressed in the nice, clean clothes she had dressed me in…hugging a huge fish my dad caught, causing him to erupt with laughter and ruining the clothes in the process.

I went there in 2007 and caught a similar fish.

The few trips I’ve made there over the years as a teenager and as an adult were like a trip back in time. To me, it’s a “fortress of solitude”. As the song by Weezer says, “On an island in the sun, we’ll be playing and having fun, and it makes me feel so fine I can’t control my brain. We’ll never feel bad anymore.”

Well, the pictures I saw today DID make me feel bad. Places I know well under water. Devastated docks. Some of the photos look black and white. Surreal. Apocalyptic. I feel bad for all the families who call Avalon, Stone Harbor and Ocean City home year-round, and for the families who own and rent vacation properties there. There’s no telling the number of memories for a lot of people, not to mention money, will be lost.

Please pray for New Jersey.