I was moved, as I’m sure you were, by the story in Saturday’s Triplicate about Dustin Weber’s father and his decision to trek from Astoria, Ore., to the mouth of the Klamath River. By walking and riding his bike along the same coastline his son’s body traveled he’ll be honoring Dustin, who lost his life here as a result of last year’s tsunami.
We were all very lucky that Friday morning last March — all except Dustin. If it had been a high tide when the surges hit our coast we may have seen more casualties and certainly more damage. But with the tsunami of 3/11/11, fortunately, just one life was lost.
Just one. For Jon Weber that is no consolation, I’m sure.
I couldn’t get Mr. Weber off my mind all weekend. I have never met the man, nor did I know Dustin. I only know what I’ve heard reported by the media. Dustin’s fateful decision to photograph tsunami waves — the same waves that wreaked havoc on our harbor and churned and crushed the docks and some vessels — put him in a vulnerable position. In the blink of an eye he turned his back and was washed out to sea. His body was discovered 22 days later on a sand bar about 400 miles north of Klamath.
We all heard that Dustin was a newcomer to our area, having just moved here from the high desert of Bend, Ore. Some thought, while others actually verbalized, that because Dustin was an inlander he just didn’t understand or respect the ways of our ocean.
That may be true, but it doesn’t explain the dozens of people — certainly not all strangers to Crescent City — who dared Mother Ocean to take them, too, when high wave warnings were in effect here last week. We saw them strolling casually, even skateboarding, on the jetty by the lighthouse as waves threatened to wash over them last Friday. The sign that’s posted warning everyone NOT to walk on the jetty was, I suppose, not intended for them, the people who lived to tell about it. This time.
Nearly 20 years ago a close friend of mine died instantly in a single-car accident. His mother and two sisters who lived a few hundred miles away asked me to help them understand the circumstances that led to the accident. I drove them up a hill to the place where my friend had attended a barbecue earlier the evening of the accident. Then we drove back down, crossing the narrow bridge that spanned a creek the deer used for a watering hole. We stood together in a wet green pasture below the winding road where the car had landed that rainy night. They stood there a long time. They wanted to picture it all and try to make some sense of what happened that night when, it’s believed, their son and brother swerved to miss a deer and, overcorrecting, slid along the gravel shoulder into a power pole.
People have their ways of seeking closure after the worst imaginable tragedy strikes.
The one fatality that the 2011 tsunami claimed in our waters was only 25 years old, a son and a grandson. His father will start his journey toward understanding and closure in Astoria where Dustin’s body was found. He plans to trek for 10 days and hopefully finish in our area March 11.
A couple of weeks ago Rick Hiser walked into my office asking what was being planned for the first anniversary of the tsunami. I gave him my opinion that I thought it better to wait until the harbor is rebuilt and have a celebration then.
But now after reading about Mr. Weber I can think of no better time for Del Norters to show their warm, generous and resilient spirit than by embracing him when he arrives. This is an opportunity for us to participate in a healing process for all that was lost that day.
If it were me, I’d invite Mr. Weber to Tsunami Plaza and add a plaque with Dustin’s name to the memorial there. He is not one of the 11 victims of the now-infamous Good Friday tsunami of 1964, but he should be remembered as another life cut short because of our destiny as, what many call, a tsunami magnet. And it just might help give his family the closure they seek and deserve.
Reach Michele Thomas, the Del Norte Triplicate’s publisher, at email@example.com, 464-2141 or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.