That Special Place
By Jason E. Hill
Like the fluid motion of a swinging pendulum, the thunderous rhythm of the surf pounding the shoreline was nearly hypnotic. Just as the breaking waves commanded my attention, I was provided solace with the magical tranquility of the moment. As I peer into the brilliant blue sky, I am nearly lulled into slumber by the constant drone of relentless surf attacking the defenseless shore. Though my eyes search in all directions across the Montauk dunes, there is not a soul to be seen. Except for a squawking gray and white gull who glares suspiciously at me and continues in flight stopping for a fleeting moment to swoop a slippery, silver, swimming fish into its hungry mouth, I am alone.
Gazing across the boundless expanse of ocean before my eyes, I find myself struggling to find pleasure during this tranquil moment. As a child, I remember walking along this same stretch of beach and enjoying the freedom it so readily offered. I remember my father casting his custom made lures into the turbulentAtlanticin hopes of reeling in the ultimate fish. I distinctly remember my mother telling me not to venture too far as she battled the ocean breeze trying to secure the beach towel firmly on the sand. I remember the Montauk Lighthouse glistening in the sun as the beach grass swayed in unison with the wind. This beach provided a safe haven from the real world, which at times seemed overwhelming and riddled with problems. The distinct odor of the churning sea along with the warmth of the unobstructed sun supplied a comforting sense of security.
Growing up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section ofBrooklynduring the 1960’s, my childhood was not unique. It was a difficult period for everyone. John F. Kennedy was president, andAmericafaced serious challenges. Tension between theUnited Statesand the former Russian Empire were at their peak, as the Cold War escalated. The threat of nuclear warfare was growing, and was no longer viewed as a remote possibility.Americawas on edge. Danger loomed, and no one was immune to its destructive wrath.
Along with the standard fire drills, I distinctly recall the safety drills that specifically prepared the class for life-threatening bomb attacks. I vividly remember the teacher demonstrating how to fold our arms over our heads and seek shelter under our desks. Needless to say, these were frightening times and especially harrowing for young children. Although actual warfare never erupted, the hostility and sharp conflict in diplomacy between the two nations left a scar on all those who lived through this period that can never be erased.
Sadly, despite the passing of five decades,America, once again faces a serious threat that promises to be equally disturbing. Unfortunately, the element of fear and apprehension has weaved its way into the fabric of American life. The feeling cannot be denied. Each time we board a commercial aircraft or ride the subway system, we are accompanied with the gnawing thought that the potential exists for terror attacks. Change is inevitable, we are told. That often-overused phrase has more meaning now than ever before.September 11, 2001marked the day thatAmericachanged forever. As we journey into these uncharted waters, we have become a country in transition. Our sense of security has become compromised. A German philosopher once wrote, ‘’ History is something that never happened, written by a man that wasn’t there. ‘’ In many cases, I wish that were true.
As I walk across the shoreline, I once again have the rare opportunity to put the real world behind me, allowing precious moments for me to reflect on the past and contemplate the future. As the last remaining rays of sunlight succumb to the vastness of the night sky over theAtlantic, a sense of despair emerges. I wish this moment could last forever. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. Although we would love complete control of our lives, we have limited power over our ultimate destiny. This is a subtle reminder that life is a gift. Sadly, for many of us we don’t realize the value of human life until it is too late. It’s not until a loved one passes away, or until we face death ourselves, that we begin questioning our own mortality. As darkness approaches, I am mesmerized by the moment. As I watch fishing vessels meander their way across the point towardsLakeMontaukin search of a safe haven, I am comforted knowing that I have already found mine.