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Editor’s column: ‘Surrounded by much love’

 

I’m new here.

Before I moved (south from the D.C. suburbs, which seems to be a theme among transplants here) I joined a bunch of local Facebook groups and got educated on local culture.

Rocky the serval cat escapes a lot, and apparently has an appetite for chicken? Got it.

Plastic bags are bad? Very, very bad? Check.

Alex Lex and his amusingly absurd photoshopped images of Outer Banks landscapes and landmarks? People love him or hate him. (“I had to explain to all my relatives that photo of a megalodon at Jennette’s Pier isn’t real!”) Got it, I think.

Alligator River Bridge? Someone needs to start a website called “isalligatorriverbridgeopen.com,” kinda like D.C.’s highly-popular “ismetroonfire.com.”

Affordable housing shortage? Experienced that one firsthand.

Transplants moving here from out-of-state? Yikes. (Though no one has been anything less than welcoming and helpful, at least to my face.)

What I didn’t see in all those Facebook threads? How this big-hearted community comes together when something terrible happens.

Little Wesley Belisle’s story now becomes part of the history of the Outer Banks, a shocking reminder of the sea’s unforgiving beauty and power, but also a reminder of the strength, grace and love here when everyone comes together for a common cause.

People didn’t just shake their heads with a “how sad” and move on. They gathered on the beach where the waves swept him away and poured out their hearts, into a heart made of seashells.

“I hope you feel surrounded by much love,” one resident wrote on a seashell to Wesley’s family.

How could they not?

A local realtor gave the family a free place to stay as the search for Wesley went on. Businesses posted signs “Pray for Wesley’s family.” Volunteers combed the seashore looking for him. Outer Banks Shipping, for free, sent a total of 366 pounds of seashells and notes from the seaside memorial to the little boy’s family in New Hampshire earlier this week.

And people still want to do something to make sure he has a legacy here. There’s been a movement to change the name of the Lillian Street beach access to “Wesley Street.” There’s talk of a walk/run in his memory. Wesley’s family has said they’d like to work with local residents to raise awareness about ocean safety.

No doubt, local residents will make sure Wesley’s memory lives on here where the ocean swept him away. And this newcomer, grateful to live among such strong and loving neighbors, hopes to be part of it.

Kari Pugh is the new editor of The Coastland Times. Reach her at kari.pugh@thecoastlandtimes.com