Sea Foam, Surf, and Surges
Why does Dr. Kate Connors worry about beach water quality in Nocturne, Opus 1: Sea Foam? First of all, she is the mother of a precocious three-year-old daughter and she loves her dearly. Which parent among us wouldn't pay attention to our child's surroundings, especially in new places like on vacation at the beach? But how many of us also see this standard beach scene through the microscopic and macroscopic eyes of a scientist?
Kate Connors is a scientist, a medical researcher studying the effects of bacteria on the human body. Specifically, she studies Bacillus nocturne, a normally passive, estuary bacteria that floats harmlessly in rivers, bays and oceans. Why does she study this bacteria? Because the organization that hired her, the Institute for Public Policy and Safety, knows that someone has genetically altered Bacillus nocturne. Kate sees danger where we see children laughing and tumbling in the surf.
But after Hurricane Sandy and the Nor'easter that followed it, we may also see danger in sea foam, surf, and surges. Knowing that bacteria do exist in our coastal waters, it is important to think about where all that surge water that entered people's homes came from. Whether back bay surges, ocean surges, or river surges, that water was filled with waste water, chemical and biological residue, and decaying matter. People wading through it to help others and to secure their possessions may have come in contact with materials hazardous to their health. Any one with cuts and abrasions that were exposed to the surge water could be very vulnerable to an infection. In the Delaware area, television stations were reminding people caught in the flooding or clean-up to review their tetanus injection records to see if a booster injection might be prudent. Furthermore, the television stations announced that anything porous which had come in contact with the flood waters, although dry now, should be disposed of, rather than cleaned and kept.
Safety first . . . material possessions last.
We are reminded through events like storm surges that life is what is important, because we can replace water-logged things, but we cannot replace a life.