A hurricane that breaks peoples' hearts is easier to fathom than a possibly suspicious fire that breaks peoples' hearts again. It's beyond baffling to see part of the shore in ruins again, especially after so many sacrificed so much to get it up and running.
Superhuman effort went into containing the blaze, which grew into a five alarm fire, then a six alarm one. The numbers kept rising. Rescue workers had to cut the new boardwalk up to stop the fire. Hundreds of thousands of dollars alone lost there, money that the folks of Seaside have to come up with. Huge billows of black smoke rose into the sky along the oceanfront, with orange and red flames licking their way higher and higher into the sky as firemen, many of them who had raced there from a convention in Wildwood, NJ, hurried to get water from the bay to put the fire out. Their fire trucks were parked by the sparkling bay I remember so well on the other side of Seaside, which looked strangely normal as the flames destroyed the boardwalk. It was all surreal.
Yesterday, the morning after the fire, I steeled myself to look at what was left. Nothing could be worse I thought than images of Sandy which hit so many places.
But I was left feeling baffled because it was worse. Maybe because it was a second hit to places that were spared by Sandy.
Certainly the images were predictable ones after a fire. Ashes. Images of charred buildings with just enough reminders of what they used to be to hurt. In a stroke of irony, the Fun Town sign fell to the ground on top of the charred remains of the building. Metal chairs remained standing in ruined restaurants.In buildings I recognized, I could almost picture people sitting there waiting for their food, almost hear their laughter, almost smell the salt air - an overlay of brightly colored images on top of the blackened reality.
Yes it still exists, if only in collective memory. In photos. In videos. In our imagination.
Remember the people of Seaside as you pray or meditate or send positive thoughts out to the universe in the way your faith calls you to. As Quakers say, "way will open" after this second blow. People will find a way to rebuild or not. They will get on with their lives once again.
Baffled or not.