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Another Portland Blog

Saturday, July 07, 2007

 

Undertow

I typically spend the days leading up to 4th of July with family down at Cannon Beach. It's become an annual tradition. July 3rd was like any other before it. I woke up, spent some time on a Funcycle and killed part of the afternoon wave jumping in the Pacific. The weather was perfect and the ocean actually felt warm for a change. A flock of pelicans fishing out past the breakers further added to an idyllic scene worthy of the overpriced seaside portraits found in the town's galleries. All in all, none of us could have hoped for a better day at the coast.

I was in our hotel room later in the evening when we all heard the whirring. A Coast Guard helicopter was circling over a spot in the water directly across the beach from our deck. My first inclination was to grab a camera. Next door, a father had a video camera. Something terrible had just gone down but here we both were, eager to get the situation stored forever on our memory cards. Silhouetted against the sunset, the copter looked like it belonged in a Michael Bay movie. I spotted more cameras down on the beach. I didn’t see a news van in the parking lot until the following morning.

A later search on Oregon Live turned up an explanation. A local teenager made the mistake of going out too far in the surf. His two friends came back and he didn't. The search continued into the night. I woke up around 2:30 and headed outside to find an eerie scene. The copter was still circling down towards Haystack Rock, its light bouncing off the "Needles." A truck was pacing up and down the shoreline with a spotlight shinning out across the waves. It's a memory that will stay me for a long time.

People deal with things like this in different ways. Most shrug and go on with their day. I've since deleted the pictures and I would hope the guy next door has erased whatever footage he took. The authorities gave up the search on the morning of the 4th.

And I was back out in the ocean that afternoon with dozens of others up and down the beach, all of us bouncing around in the waves and the undertow but maybe not out quite as far. How many of us had heard the news before jumping in?

And on the way out on Sunday night, along US 26 I passed by this.

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