While my historical novel, Silent Came the Monster, is the story of the infamous 1916 Jersey Shore shark attacks, the focus is on the people whose lives were impacted by the shark in some way, with an emphasis on resilience, love, grief - and tremendous courage.
Imagine this real-life scene as described by multiple witnesses in Beach Haven, the site of the first attack: Lifeguards and bystanders raced into the surf to pull a swimmer from the jaws of a terrifying "sea monster." Since it was widely believed, even by scientists, that "man-eating" sharks didn't swim in the waters off New Jersey or New York at all, witnesses were not only terrified, they were bewildered. Not knowing what the creature was, I'm sure, made it that much scarier.
The lifeguards were young, just as they often are today. And yet, they didn't hesitate for a second. Neither did the wealthy gentlemen from Philadelphia, many of them dressed in formal dinner clothes, who realized something terrible was happening. The lifeguards, hanging onto the victim by his arms, were joined by the gentlemen, and together they created a human chain as they tried with all their might to keep the victim from being pulled beneath the waves.
It was man – or men – against beast.
When I read the accounts of this tragic event and the others that followed as the shark moved up the coast, I was moved to tears by these extraordinary demonstrations of selflessness and bravery. This is why I dedicated the book to "the rescuers, lifeguards, and heroes who rush toward danger at their own peril. You represent the best of humankind."
I want them to be remembered.
When terrible things happen, there are always those brave souls who risk it all. I'm reminded of the police and firefighters who rushed into the World Trade Center towers on 9-11, or the stories my dad told me about his buddies in World War II when they were in the Army overseas.
Sometimes it seems as if the world is filled with evil people who care nothing about the well-being of others. And yet, the good folks are all around us, like angels.