2005-06-10 / Editorial/Opinion

Don’t Politicize Another Tragic Accident

Jermaine Cohen, 16, a Brooklyn resident did not know how to swim, although one of the other young men in the water with him said that Cohen told him that he was a good swimmer. Cohen and six other young men were playing football on the beach at Beach 94 Street, when four of them decided to take a quick swim before heading home. They took to the water despite the fact that the lifeguards had gone home about twenty minutes earlier. That decision cost Wade McDonald, a forty-year-old Brooklyn man who tried to save Cohen and his friends, his life. Cohen’s body had not been found by the time The Wave went to press, but it is clear that he perished as well. Rockaway’s ocean beaches are dangerous, particularly early in the morning and late in the afternoon, when the rip current is running hard and fast. This was another of the tragic accidents that happen on ocean beaches every summer. There will be those who will politicize the tragedy by demanding that beaches be closed, by demanding that lifeguards remain on duty for a longer period of time, by demanding that larger “No Swimming When Lifeguard Is Not On Duty” signs be posted in dozens of languages. It does not matter. We could fence off the beachfront, post ten-foot-high signs in fifty languages and keep the lifeguards on duty until midnight. At 12:03 a.m., somebody would ignore the signs, climb the fence and die in the raging waters. The education program recently launched by Region Five is a good first step to educate kids about the dangers of the Rockaway surf. It has to be presented citywide, however, because few Rockaway people drown on our beaches. It is more often the people down for the day who do not know the danger. This is not the time to play politics with a tragedy that could have been averted if only the teens knew the danger they were putting themselves into by setting foot in the water when the lifeguards were gone.

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