By Lou Ann Homan
I first heard about Hands Across the Sand as snow was still falling in the Midwest. I could only imagine how it would be on Ocracoke, joining hands with folks and stretching out the entire length of the island in the month of June.
I must confess that my aged jeep is a billboard for this type of movement. One year I drove it to Ocracoke, but Philip made me back it in his driveway since tourists were looking at my car and not at his wonderfully restored old house. Even so, I proudly display all the images and truths that I believe in on the back of that old Jeep. And, Indiana is not always known to be progressive…with marches and rallies or other remnants of the hippie movement.
I knew someone would take over, and it was, of course, Kitty Mitchell, who organized, planned and advertised the Hands Across the Sand for Ocracoke. I first saw her post on Facebook (OK, now you know what I do in my spare time) with the date, and I hoped I would get here for the event. There is no reason to go into the details of my situation, but a visit to my mom was imperative before I came for the summer. The surprise for me, and my mom, was that she would be coming with me to spend a week.
Now my mom has never sponsored an event like this or even attended one. I was careful how I approached this with her. I think we were having a glass of wine when I told her of all the activities that would be taking place on Ocracoke when we arrived. There was, of course, Uncle Buddy’s wedding, and the Opry, and, slipping in the words between sips of white wine, we would be participating in Hands Across the Sand. We had been watching the oil spill each morning, and I wove it all together. She nodded in agreement.
My mom’s trip to Ocracoke with me was exactly how it should be and all the events took place, as I knew they would.
Saturday, June 26th arrived hot and beautiful, and I was so anxious for the gathering. I had been reading all that I could on-line to know more. I love this quote from Hands Across the Sand website, “…not about politics, it is about protection of our coastal economics, oceans, marine wildlife, and fishing industry.”
As per Kitty’s announcements and flyers, we arrived promptly at 11:00 a.m. on the beach. Kitty was busy setting up the table, talking to stray beach walkers as they came over out of curiosity. I, the dreamer that I am, expected hundreds and hundreds of folks to stretch out along the full length of the seashore, but then again we were early.
There were seashells to sign with markers to be sent to Governor Beverly Perdue, all with the same message, “No to offshore drilling and yes to clean energy,” but with clever notes.
I watched my mom sprint around making friends and signing her seashell. Could I have underestimated this woman? Maybe we don’t know each other as well as we should. I took her photograph signing the seashell…mingling with folks.
More folks came and the crowd was growing with locals and tourists alike talking, laughing, sharing sunscreen and everyone was happy to be there taking part in this ground roots event that could be instrumental in making our world cleaner and safer. When the sign arrived saying Ocracoke Island we all cheered and stories were passed among us like waves on the beach. It had been used in the 70’s here on Ocracoke, in Raleigh, in Washington and I am sure other locations. It looked great even after being in storage for 40 years!
At ten minutes till twelve we headed down to the surf to begin forming our long line. The sign was placed in the middle as we stretched out upon the beach facing the sea with our feet covered in sand. There were children building a sand castle in front of us oblivious to our mission, to the oil spill, to their future.
I reached for my mom’s hand on my right and a new friend, Sally, on my left. My mom’s hand felt strong and energetic as she stood facing the sea in silence. Fifteen minutes we held hands thinking our own thoughts. I looked up and down the line at the folks holding hands. We weren’t protesting or causing harm, we were drawing our own line in the sand to bring awareness to our shoreline, all shorelines. I thought of all the people on other beaches forming their lines as well.
The only sound I heard was the sound of waves upon land until Sally began to sing. It was soft at first, and then her voice grew stronger. My mom looked at me and nodded sweetly. I squeezed her hand and we both joined in with Sally:
Oh beautiful for working folk
Who forge the wealth we see
In farm and field and home and school
Unsung in history,
May race nor creed nor more divide
ut side by side
All stand united and free.
– Unknown author
Lou Ann is a staff writer for the Ocracoke Observer and spends her summers on Ocracoke Island where she collects stories and tales.