HULL — The waves were rough and the visibility low, but it didn’t stop a small group of local surfers at Nantasket Beach from memorializing Sept.11 in a way special to their community.
AmpSurf, a nonprofit that teaches people with disabilities to surf across New England, hosted a paddle out at 10:28 a.m. Tuesday morning at Nantasket to mark the exact minute the North Tower collapsed in New York City during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Three local surfers braved the harsh waves to place a wreath and gather together in a moment of silence on the water as a dozen other people watched from shore.
“That was a terrible, terrible day. I’ll never forget it,” said Fred O’Brien, a Navy veteran. “When you see what they did over the years and what they’re still doing – they deserve it.”
Local AmpSurf volunteer Shawn O’Brien, Fred’s son, said many of the organization’s clients are veterans with amputations or post-traumatic stress disorder. Shawn O’Brien was inspired to organize the paddle out, which also took place in California and New York in the same minute, because of his own friends and relatives who have served.
“The whole reason we are here is because people sacrificed,” he said. “I’m just a regular guy, I’m a nobody, but I recognize the sacrifice that others have made. So this is a small way to say thank you to those who have sacrificed more than I.”
Hanson resident Stephen Keddy heard about the event on a local meetup website for surfers.
“When I saw it was affiliated with Sept. 11 and the veterans, I was all in,” he said. “I have family members and friends in the service so I knew I had to come down.”
Surfers around the country practice the paddle out ritual, usually to say goodbye to a member of their own community who has died. Traditionally, a group paddles out beyond the surf break, floats together in a circle and places a wreath or other form of memorial. Sometimes someone says a few words, other times the surfers sit in silence and they slap their hands against the ocean to stir up the water, O’Brien said.