As seen from the Ocean City boardwalk, the 9th street beach seemed an idyllic scene that mid-week spring afternoon a few weeks before Memorial Day sometime in the 1970s.
Midway between the Music Pier and the jetty, a small group of young Amish girls stood at the water’s edge, their hair in tight buns under bonnets, their long brown ankle length dresses pulled up as the succeeding waves lapped at their bare feet, their shoes in their hands.
A few yards away two teenage girls in bikinis turned over on their blankets, one fiddled with a transistor radio while the other looked at the Amish girls wading in the water as one kicked some water on another and they all laughed.
Another let her toes sink into the soft sand as another little wave lapped at their feet.
There was no one else on the beach, other than a surfer in a black wetsuit walking towards the surfer’s beach a few blocks away. The lifeguard stand was pulled back by the boardwalk; the lifeguards weren’t on duty until the weekend. A fisherman cast his line into the water at the end of the jetty.
A few dozen people walked casually along the boardwalk. A bicycle went by.
The sun was high and bright, and a low mist settled onto the scene that seemed to be out of a Monet painting, but the moment ended suddenly and unexpectedly.
A large wave came crashing down, it’s waters splashing the Amish girls, who screamed and ran a few feet in front of the incoming tide as the girls on the blanket got up and pulled their blanket back to keep it from getting wet. They all got away and fell to the sand laughing, except for one, the one with her foot firmly planted in the mud, her skirt soaking wet, she knelt down in the knee deep water. A younger Amish girl stopped running away and ran back to her, pulling her arm, helping to free her foot from the sand when another big wave came crashing down on both of them.
In a second they were sucked out in the rip tide as the wave crashed on the beach between them and the other girls.
From the boardwalk, a man who had been watching from the rail yelled to a policeman who came running down the boardwalk, and they both ran down the steps to the beach, but the two girls were now floating apart from each other about thirty yards out, so they ran onto the jetty where a fisherman had extended his pole to the girl furthest out and she was trying to reach for it.
On the boardwalk, a young grill boy at a lunch counter saw the whole thing, called 911 on the telephone and reported trouble at the 9th street beach, and then took off his apron and jumped over the counter, running across the boardwalk and down the steps, diving into the water as another wave broke in.
Another man entered the water and as he assisted the younger girl closest to the beach, the grill boy swam out towards the other girl, her arms flailing, screaming for help as the tide took her out towards the end of the jetty where the cop and the fisherman were stretching out to reach her.
As the one girl was being helped out of the water by the girls in the bikinis, who wrapped their blanket around her, the grill boy reached the other girl at the end of the jetty and pushed her towards the rocks and into the arms of the policeman, who was in turn being held by the fisherman. She fell unconscious as they pulled her onto the slippery, slimy black rocks. An ambulance medical crew with a stretcher were making their way down the jetty.
The fisherman laid on his back on the jetty, staring for a moment into the sun until the policeman stood over him and held out his hand and hauled him up, and once standing, shook his hand firmly and said, “Thank you.”
Then someone missed the grill boy and asked where he was, and the policeman and fisherman looked around the now crowded jetty and then into the waters around the jetty, but no grill boy.
No one had seen him go under, but no one had seen him since he pushed the girl onto the jetty.
He was missing. And remained missing until the next morning when his body washed ashore on a beach a few blocks away and found by surfers.
For the next few days the same group of Amish girls who were on the beach could be found standing outside the emergency room of the hospital, waiting in a quite vigil for their sister to be released, and when she was, they all stood outside the funeral home where they had come to pay their respects to the young grill boy, the hero who gave his life to save one of theirs, when that idyllic moment on 9th street beach went suddenly and tragically wrong.
[BK Notes: This is a true story and that’s how I remember it. If I can determine when this happened, even what year, I hope to look up the newspaper clips to get the name of those involved and revise the story more accurately as to how it actually happened.]