by Kailey Aiken
Happy 4th of July! The day, and the weekend prior, brought just as much chaos as we all anticipated, and spotty thunderstorms only added to it. Lifeguards had to close the beaches twice on the 4th, attempt to clear the water and the beach, and then watched from the shack as Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) tried to keep people out of the water. Of course, the people didn’t want to listen and guards on 97th Street and 106th Street had to go in for multiple cases (rescues) while the beaches were technically closed.
Speaking of closed beach cases, on Thursday morning as lifeguards from 86 shack were doing drills, surfers got our attention to point out patrons struggling near the rocks on a beach closed for surfing. Just as drills were about to end, things took a turn, and we all sprinted a bay for the case. A surfer lent us his board, and everybody was returned safely to shore.
The rip currents, that seem to multiply each day, have been making our job much more difficult. I’m pretty sure I have a sore throat from whistling so much, and my ears are in a constant state of ringing. Attempting to keep people away from the rocks, out of the rips in the middle of the bay, and close enough to shore, is kind of like being an air traffic director, except instead of one airplane there’s about 100 and none of them want to listen to you. Maybe if we tried using those glow wands that air traffic directors have then people would get the idea, because whistling and hand motions aren’t quite cutting it these days. A patron who spent the day on Beach 97th street actually made a TikTok video complaining about all the whistling. Lifeguards were quick to explain our reasoning in the comments. The video was then deleted. If she found the whistling irritating after just one day on the beach, you can only imagine how we feel!
On Sunday, beaches were closed around 5 p.m. due to thunder and lightning. PEP and lifeguards cleared the beach, but it’s very difficult to keep people off and out of the water once the lifeguards are off the beach. Around 5:50 p.m., a 14-year-old boy went in the water on a closed beach, began struggling, and went under. Lifeguards from 73 shack responded from the shack as quickly as possible. They formed a dive line and were able to pull the boy out and immediately started compressions. Ambulances arrived and took the boy to a local hospital where he was sadly pronounced dead. Tragic events like this are painful reminders of how important it is to swim only when lifeguards are present on open beaches, and how important the job we do is. Hopefully we will not see something like this again for a while.