After dinner we headed out for a walk and ended up sitting on the sand for awhile. Steve went and got the beach toys so the girls made castles while we listened to the waves crash. We then headed back to our room to change so we could walk down Atlantic Avenue for some ice cream. Before we headed out Steve decided to rest while the girls and I sat on the balcony watching all the people below. It was about 8 pm but there was still people out enjoying the nice evening. All of a sudden we heard screams that were alarming. There was a woman on the beach screaming for help. Since we were up 10 stories we could see everything. Steve came out and we watched as a lifeguard ran from quite a ways down the beach. Two beach goers jumped into the water as well. They swam to three individuals that were pretty far out but not that far that I would be concerned. They looked to be stuck in the riptide and were panicking. We had our binoculars and I put the 200mm lens on the camera to document what was happening. That first lifeguard was such a hero. He dove in and had to rescue two grown men. I have one photo of the lifeguard with the first man and all you can see of the second man is his hands above the water. He is totally submerged. He managed to pull them both out. The other girl that was in trouble was able to make it out of the riptide and to shore on her own. We all thought it was over and were thanking God when the screaming started again. There was someone missing. More lifeguards and police had arrived and the lifeguards formed a line and went back in searching for the missing swimmer. Our hearts sank. I had never even seen this other swimmer, just the three that made it out. We prayed that her body would rise up and they could revive her. It was very, very hard to watch this but I felt we needed to stay and not turn away and offer our prayers.
Unfortunately she drown and her body was recovered about 45 minutes later. We were in shock over what we just witnessed. The night we learned of Ellie's brain tumor was shocking but she was alive, she was still with us. 16 months later, she is still with us. I cannot fathom the sudden death of a loved one. I've lived through it with my brother but I was just 16 at the time and truth be told, I was more concerned with my parents and how hard it was for them that I don't think I properly mourned his death at that time. Now, looking at things as an adult and a parent, I cannot imagine having someone be there one moment and gone the next. That is total devastation. Only God and your faith can get you through something like this. I have some of the rescue photos on my flickr account. I did not post any of the swimmers that were in danger - just of the response from the emergency personnel.
The next day was a brand new day and we were able to put a lot of the previous night's sadness out of the way. We ended up having such a fun time. We started off at the beach. Emma and I boogie boarded... yes... I boogie boarded. I am sure it wasn't pretty but boy was it fun. Virginia Beach has a lot of high waves and we certainly did enjoy playing in them. Ellie is not a big fan of the ocean (Thank God!) because the crashing waves scare her. She was more than happy to sit and make sand castles. She made a little friend named Henry and they played for quite a long time. We decided to have lunch and cocktails at the pool and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon poolside.
The girls hang out in the shallow end of the pool.
We headed out to dinner and then walked a bit before the fireworks. The entire beach area was packed with thousands of people. I was so grateful all we had to do was go back to our room and watch from the comfort of our balcony. No lines, no traffic. It was perfect. The view did not disappoint nor did the fireworks. It was a really wonderful day and to be together to enjoy it was the best part. I am so proud of Ellie and all that she has endured to make it to this place. She deserves to have a lot of fun this summer and so far she is. I have many more photos on the flickr account of our weekend.