We then meandered over to the town beach in Westport to see the road that was completely destroyed and the place where homes were washed up to 1/4 mile away after Hurricane Bob. This year, the road was totally blocked off and guarded by an armed Man in Blue and we couldn’t walk down and see the heart of the devastation, but we could tell that the road was washed away in the middle and littered with rocks. My girls were amazed that water could do that much damage. I remember seeing homes literally split in multiple pieces, scattered all over the road after Bob. I vividly remember one home completely submerged in the marsh about 1/4 mile away from where it originally rested, mobile homes destroyed. It appears that people were much more prepared for this storm: the newer homes built on stilts, and mobile home owners heeding all evacuation notices. Most of the damage appeared to be to the road, the beach, and town infrastructure — and not to people’s homes. Regardless, Irene made her presence known.
Next stop: Rhode Island. To our little getaway that I was convinced would have calmer surf and an abundant supply of post-storm treasure, unearthed by Irene. The beach was open, and the damage was more evident. The landscape had completely changed — overnight. Road washed out, cemented picnic tables knocked over, dunes completely gone, rocks and boulders littering what was once the road, beach grass flattened and dying. We slowly made our way down the street and pulled off to the side of the road to secure our spot. As I was unpacking the car, my daughters set off to explore the altered landscape and dip their toes in the water. A few seconds later, I heard frantic tones and saw lots of pointing. I yelled over to them and asked them what was wrong. “Starfish!” they cried! “Look at all the starfish!” I didn’t even have time to close the trunk. My girls were frantically scooping up armloads of starfish and running them about 100 feet down to the ocean. I kind of stopped in my tracks, awe-struck at what I was seeing. There were hundreds of them — all marooned with no hope of reaching water again on their own. In the 10 years I have been visiting this beach, I have only seen ONE starfish — I had no idea that these waters were that populated! And, just like my daughters, I had an overwhelming desire to save as many as I possibly could. The sun was hot, the tide was going out, and there was no doubt that if we did not try to get these starfish back in the water, they would all die.
So, we got handfuls of starfish. We got shovels full of starfish. We got arm’s lengths of starfish. And we brought them all back down to the water and waded in as deep as we could to bring them back home.
We did this for hours. My girls did not swim. They did not play. They did not even want to break for lunch. They had never ever heard of that Starfish Story before, but here they were, making a difference to tens, dozens, hundreds of starfish on the beach they have grown up on. Willingly. And with a steadfast determination. I found myself getting choked up intermittently. Choked up over the devastation and the massive loss of marine life after the storm. And choked up with pride over how beautiful my daughters are on the inside, and how they do so much good without me even having to open my mouth. It is just instinctual for them to save and to make the world a better place. I would very much like to take credit for that, but I don’t think I can. They are so much better than I ever dreamed of being at that age.
We did a good thing yesterday. And, I know we didn’t save all of the starfish that we put back in the water — and there is no way we got to all of the ones that were stranded on the beach. But, out of the hundreds that we brought back to the water, I think we rescued about 90% of them. Only a few floated to the top and got brought back in with the tide. And, regardless of what the onlookers were thinking as they watched us from their chairs, we DID make a difference yesterday. I commend my children for their spirits and their inherent good nature.