DOUGLAS MARTIN was a husband and a father of six daughters.
I knew Mr. Martin very indirectly - I may have actually spoken to him 2 or 3 times and I'd probably waved 'hello' to him the same number of times.
On September 14th 2006, he and three of his daughters were swimming near the 78th street pier in Ocean City. With hurricane Florence blowing strong in the Atlantic about the same time, the northeastern US seaboard had been plagued with strong, dangerous riptides. Mr. Martin and his girls got caught up in such a riptide. They were separated from each other and he swam to shore to make sure everyone was okay. When he got there, only his 17 year old daughter had made it back safely. Mr. Martin turned back to the sea and did what father's do - he went back for his children.
It turns out that his 13 year old daughter had been lucky and smart enough to let herself float on her back and get washed out to sea, where she was rescued by an off-duty beach patrol officer. Mr. Martin and his 15 year old, Amy, were found a short time later by the Coast Guard and taken to Atlantic General Hospital where he was pronouced dead on arrival and where she died an hour later.
Over the last few days I have thought about these events for hours and hours. Their deaths reinforce the fact that we have to give love to those around us every chance we get. What was an innocent moment of family fun - a quick swim before dinner - turned to devastating tragedy in only a few minutes. What was a happy family of eight, was in the blink of an eye changed to a grieving family of six. I'm sure that morning Mr. & Mrs. Martin had no idea that that would be their last morning waking up together.
In my mind, I've tried to imagine what Mr. Martin was thinking when he realized that two of his children were in mortal danger. Swimming out to them with water splashing around him, rip currents pulling like strong arms at his whole body, yelling and screaming his girls names. I'm positive that he had no thoughts of his own impending death, I'm positive that he had no idea that the 46 years of life that he had were about to end in a few minutes. I'm positive that his only thoughts were of a life without two of his girls and this is a life that he was swimming frantically to prevent. If they weren't coming back, then HE wasn't coming back.
I know there are millions of fathers who would risk and give their lives without a second of thought to protect their children. But to have actually encountered a man that would be called upon to make that exact sacrifice is humbling. To me, it defines the man. To me, it is the example of what a MAN does, and it is the best example of what a FATHER does.
Rest in peace, Douglas and Amy.