Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Something For Today

I dislike running on the boardwalk; I always get blisters when I do, which is something that doesn't happen on the roads around Roxbury or on the gym's treadmill.  But, in a stray 36 hours, when I had already spent four hours in the water getting smashed into by large waves, and occasionally getting the better of them, I also wanted an hour to wring out my muscles by jogging the 2 and 1/2 miles of boards and back again.

But something caught my eye this week, because it was unusual and unexpected.

Along the ocean side of the boardwalk are benches; some face the ocean but most face the boardwalk itself.  I've sat on those benches through the decades, as a kid waiting with my Dad and sister while my mother spent time in one of the shops, while holding hands and eating ice cream cones with a teenage sweetheart, or when shaking the sand out of my wetsuit after a day in the surf.  Each bench has been sponsored by or for a person or family; their names are found on bronze plaques bolted to the center of the benches' backrests.  Some include the birth and death dates of the honoree, others carry quotations either from that person or meaningful to them.  Some are funny; some are touching.  They have been on the benches for decades now and I really don't notice them anymore.

But as I ran by the Wonderland amusement pier, which marks the ocean end of the street on which I spent my childhood summers, I noticed red, white, and blue paper stars and glittery pinwheels taped to one of the benches across from where the bumper cars and shooting gallery used to be.

It's rare in that fresh and near-constant ocean breeze for such fragile items to be found.  I stopped and discovered a plaque dedicated to one of the victims of the atrocity that is remembered today.  It is, as I have since discovered, one of four benches so dedicated and one woman, while a stranger to all four victims, has seized a particular sense of propriety with them and decorates these benches each year.  It is a remarkable gesture and a wonderfully touching witness.  The simplicity of the decorations speaks with greater resonance than the formalized gestures of some of our more cynical politicians or the media's use of "mourn porn" to sell their advertisers' merchandise.

More of this woman and her story, and the stories of those remembered on the benches, may be found here: Ocean City's 9/11 Benches: 'It’s My Duty to See That People Notice'