A tornado spoiled the afternoon.
AN OUTING IN CONEY ISLAND
It was late summer about five years ago. On this one particular day, a Sunday, we were going to the Aquarium in Coney Island. My son, Richard, drove his family, his brother, Pat, and me to that famous beach area in Brooklyn, NY. The weather was sunny and warm. It was a perfect day for an outing.
We walked around the Aquarium and really had a good time. There was so much to see of the marine life there. My two grandsons were delighted with touching and playing with some fish. When we left the aquarium, we walked along the boardwalk, and stopped for hotdogs and fries at one of the many concessions. We were in no hurry and planned to spend a lazy afternoon looking at the attractions and perhaps watch the children go on some rides.
After lunch, we decided to walk on the jetty, which is an extension of the regular boardwalk, but it juts out into the water where you can fish off the sides. It was cooler walking along that boardwalk, and many people were fishing. Some were sitting in chairs with fishing poles in their laps. Children were running up and down the boardwalk.
We had walked to the very end of the jetty, and lingered a while to enjoy the ocean view. When we turned around to go back, we noticed that the sky had darkened. A storm was brewing. As we walked along that jetty, we noticed a wall of sand in the distance to the left of us. We never witnessed anything like that before. To me, it looked like the side of a tall building without windows, and it was coming our way. People were screaming and rushing past us to get off the jetty. In a matter of seconds, the weather changed. It became very dark and windy. My family wanted to rush along with the other people, but they stayed with me. I couldn’t move that fast. As we walked, we can hear the lifeguards shouting at the people to get out of the water. The wind was getting fiercer and sand was blowing about.
When we got to the main boardwalk, the sand was flying everywhere and it stung our skin. We were pushed along by the moist wind and sand. Green garbage cans and other objects and debris were flying past us. My son, Pat said that a garbage can cover hit him, and Richard was struck with an empty baby stroller. Their injuries were minor, thank God. All of us could barely see in all that confusion, and we had a distance to walk before reaching the parking field. We found out later that the Aquarium staff locked the doors to the public. People wanted to get to the parking field by going through the Aquarium.
It was so scary. The wind was moving in every direction by then. It looked like midnight outside, yet it was only the afternoon. We were caught in a freak tornado. I was thinking of the character, Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz and her Aunty Em calling out to her. I was so fortunate to have my two sons, Richard and Pat on either side of me holding me up by my elbows practically dragging me along as my hands held onto my summer hat. I held the hat down over my ears. As I was held in between my two sons, I felt like a piece of wash hung out to dry on a clothesline and flapping about in the wind. My daughter- in-law had my two young grandchildren in tow nearby.
Still reveling about the Wizard of Oz movie, I was actually hearing someone’s voice, but it was a storekeeper on the boardwalk. He was calling out to us to get out of the storm and into his store. That was the best offer at the moment, and we rushed into the safety of his establishment. The place was crowded with many people who sought shelter there. We were delighted that it was a penny arcade. There was nothing to do, but play with the machines and games. The kids had a great time there, and so we waited out the storm. The proprietor said that in all of 30 years that he was there on the boardwalk, he had never witnessed weather such as this on Coney Island.
After it was over, we noticed the damage everywhere. Trees were downed. The police and ambulances were tending to the injured and the lost. A woman was crying that her baby was missing. A fallen tree crushed one woman as she walked pushing her baby in a carriage. She was killed instantly, but the baby was not hurt. We thank the Lord above that none of us were hurt. We were able to get to our vehicle in the parking field and drive home. The media called the tornado a freak of nature. We witnessed that wall of sand in the distance, and we survived the outing in Coney Island. We brought home the telltale remnants of that storm; sand inside our underwear and shoes.
This is a true account of that incident at Coney Island. Yes, we were frightened. There was no warning. I know what happened to us was mild compared to the devastation and destruction from the Tsunami in Asia. Nature’s fury can hit us at any moment with floods, mudslides, hurricanes, fires, and much more anywhere in the world.
We should treat everyday as a precious commodity. We should not hold grudges with one another, but forgive and love our family and friends. Before it is too late, we should tell them that we love them. How sad not to show that love and then a family member or friend is taken away from us forever through sudden acts of terrorism, accidents, war, illnesses, or other causes.
All of us have been given the miracle of life on this earth, but we are here only for a short time. Yes, our days are numbered, and only God knows when our time will come. So live each day as if it is your last one here on earth, and live it the best way that you can with peace in your heart and love for all mankind.
by Dorothy M. Ercole