Dear Little One,
I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting you, but I hate hearing you referred to as “Baby Doe,” so please excuse my presumption and allow me to give you a new name:
I’m naming you after the place where you lived your whole, painfully short life. What happened to you in Ocean Shores is shocking the whole state and, by now, probably most of the country. In quiet little Ocean Shores, to the horror of the events, people have an added layer of puzzlement:
Why here? How could something so awful happen in such a nice place?
If only you had a chance to grow up where you were born, and enjoy one of the most peaceful places down here on Earth. Sure, there are plenty of petty squabbles about politics and policies, which this blog gripes and moans about all the time. And this is a blog created by someone who doesn’t even live there any more; I moved away a few months ago, after spending five years in Ocean Shores.
Many folks who live there — and even some regular visitors — have spent more time in Ocean Shores. And I bet they would all tell you the same thing: Ocean Shores is a nice place.
Not perfect — but nice. And that is saying something, in the world that we down here live in. On top of that, Ocean Shores cares. Unfortunately, Baby Shores, care isn’t something you experienced, on this plane. But if you would have lived longer in what we call “the 289,” you would have had plenty of care.
At Christmas-time, you would have got to know Santa Claus. Not just some guy in a fake-looking suit at a department store, but a guy called “Harry Christmas,” who looks like the real deal and has the heart to match. He not only goes to events all over town and the big “Kids Christmas Party” at the Convention Center, he and his “elf” friends go around delivering presents to needy kids at their homes.
If you would have lived longer here, you would have gone to a clean, safe, caring place called Ocean Shores Elementary School. And from there you would have graduated to North Beach Junior and Senior High School, another bright, tidy (I never saw even a letter of graffiti there) school; from your English and Science classes, you could have gazed out the window and watched the tall, skinny, elegant trees bending in the wind. And if you had trouble in certain classes, or just wanted to get ahead, you could have had help from scores of volunteers and mentors who work with the North Beach kids.
And, believe it or not, people all over the town would have donated to help pay for your college education. I’m sure you would have grown up to be a special student, but the folks in Ocean Shores do that every year, for every kid who wants to go to college. It’s not enough to pay for a full college education, but it’s certainly a great boost . . . and proof that this town cares about its kids.
And who knows? Maybe you would have liked this peaceful place so much you would have come back after college and raised your own family here. And then you would have got to know folks like Arnold Samuels, who volunteers to every group that needs help (and some that don’t). There’s all sorts of people who give their time here, to clean up the beach, put on events, show people around a neat little mini-museum called the Interpretive Center . . .
Maybe you and I could have had a cup of coffee at Tully’s or – or even one of those terrific beers (when you were old enough, of course) at Elk Head Brewery — and chuckled over the goofy happenings in the local newspaper’s Police Log. I remember when there was a complaint about a neighbor’s music . . . at 2 in the afternoon! It always seemed like the things the OSPD got called about were teen-agers doing doughnuts on the beach, the odd (literally) tourist stumbling drunk back to a hotel in the middle of the night, an occasional break-in to a vacant home, or a baby seal stranded on the beach.
I guess you can relate to that last one, unfortunately.
Even though there were precious few moments between your first breath and your last, at least it was here. I hope your little ears picked up the soothing sound of the ocean lapping against the beach, the waves saying “aaaaaah” at the end of their long journeys. If your tiny eyelids opened for a few moments, maybe they saw those gentle, regal, beautiful animals we call deer; there are plenty of them, in Ocean Shores, a place that doesn’t allow deer to be hunted. That’s how much we care about life.
I hope you heard the awesome sound of the wind whipping through those tall, bending trees.
And I’m glad that your struggling lungs were filled with the cleanest air anyone can breath, anywhere.
We wish it would have turned out so differently for you, Baby Shores, but know that this little town by the sea is proud to be your home. Tonight, maybe you looked down from where you are now and saw some flickering lights in your native town. That was a candlelight vigil, strangers gathered for one thing:
To show they care about you.