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Two eerily similar events took place near Nubble Light in York this week, with very different results.
On Monday, a diver was rescued from the water with help from a fast-acting town employee and a group of people that formed a human chain to help bring that person to safety. It was an inspiring show of togetherness that helped turn a potentially tragic situation into an uplifting one.
Sadly, hauntingly, that tragedy materialized just a day later in the same location with a diver perishing in the water near the lighthouse.
In just two days, we received important reminders about the power of people helping each other in moments of danger, and the difficult truth that, despite best efforts, people can’t always save one another. We don’t want to diminish the pain of Tuesday’s loss, but we also can’t look past the inspiring way the group of people came together on Monday.
A 57-year-old diver was in distress and exhausted in the ocean current near the lighthouse on Monday, and needed assistance, according to the Portland Press Herald. York Parks and Recreation employee Ryan Coite, a trained lifeguard according to a report from TV station NECN, swam to the diver and pulled him from the water. When the pair returned to shore, roughly 10 onlookers linked arms to assist in getting them both across rocks and back on dry land.
“I knew I could get to him and it wouldn’t be a problem, but I knew I would need some help getting him back onto the shore safely,” Coite told NECN, “I didn’t realize until I had him back to shore that everybody had teamed up, it was quite a sight to see.”
A photo credited to Lois R. Griswold of Ohio captured the group rescue effort on the rocks. It may be more iconic than any postcard or framed picture of the lighthouse nearby, because it shows the enduring power of people helping each other in times of need — of coming together with a common purpose.
“It’s wonderful to see that people want to help somebody who was in trouble, especially in these times when people don’t always come to the rescue,” Griswold told the Press Herald.
Spending even a few minutes watching cable news or scrolling through Twitter might be enough to convince Americans that our country is hopelessly divided right now. But the helpers are everywhere, particularly during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Moments and actions like this human chain in York on Monday should serve as a reminder of the goodwill and selflessness that remain strong in our communities. And it should re-emphasize what we can achieve when we do things together and with the welfare of others in mind.
We don’t mean that as an empty call for unity on all issues. This is still a nation where different ideas are debated and where diversity of people and perspective remains a great strength. But when we see our neighbors struggling in the current — any current — we should act collectively to link arms to try to make sure everyone is safe.
As Tuesday’s tragic news hammers home, the story doesn’t always have a happy ending, even after victories and after moments of inspiration. But that’s not a reason to give up hope, or to stop joining together to help others in moments of need. If this week’s events near Nubble Light are any indication, there will always be someone else who needs help.