Our GPS, nicknamed Matilda, was happy to direct us from our digs in Halifax to Peggy’s Cove. She even let us stop often to take seaside photos of homes in enviable locations boats, boat houses, and rocky shores with seaweed – Irish moss, not the desirable dulce so avidly sought by John and Joan.
At Indian Harbour, our picture-taking took us girls trespassing onto the property of a chatty, informative man from Massachusetts.
“I’m putting our two vacation homes to bed,” he told us. “Ten years ago one was ‘there’ – until Hurricane Juan turned it into kindling. I then built ‘that’ one, using olden day materials so it fits the scene.”
Next he pointed to where John and the car waited.
“See those logs over yonder? Go on Youtube and look for Indian Harbour in August, 2009. You’ll see a house being washing back and forth off its foundations by Hurricane Bill.”
Next he took us inside his 125-year-old home with newly sanded, varathaned wood flooring and hand-hewn beams forming both the ceiling above the kitchen and living room, with three bedrooms above, each with its own en-suite. He wasn’t done yet.
“Don’t eat the junk at Peggy’s Cove,” he advised with a smile. “Come back this direction, go down the hill to find Ryer’s Lobster Shop. Eat there where the lobsters are so sweet and fresh you don’t need butter for dipping.” Thanking him profusely, we set off for Peggy’s Cove once again.
Before reaching it, we turned in to view the memorial for the passengers and crew, all lost when Swissair Flight 111 crashed into the Atlantic just eight km offshore from where we walked. Other people were quietly wandering, reading the few signs and contrasting this beautifully peaceful scene with the terror of the tragedy of Sept. 2, 1998.
The rocky terrain, strewn with glacier-streaked granite, is alpine in appearance, with low, wind-swept growth. Fall colours were taking over, but yellow and blue/purple flowers, along with red rose hips and greens of every hue surrounded us. Blue sky was reflected by the sparkling water of the Atlantic Ocean on which the wind produced small white caps.
One couple started talking to Joan, asking where we were from. They had just flown in from California. Their son, aged 19 and heading overseas to continue his schooling, was aboard that plane. As they explained some of the terrible details, including the process of finding the burnt wiring at fault, we got a whole new sense of, not only the losses of so many families, but also the way locals from the communities of Peggy’s Cove, Bayswater, and more, had done all they possibly could to help.
“Many lasting friendships were formed,” they told us, and we knew they would be visiting a-plenty during the coming days.
“I wrote United by Tragedy” said the gentleman, David Wilkins. The writing of it, trips back to this site, talking to strangers like us, and reconnecting with those who had been part of the nightmare were obviously essential ingredients in their healing process.
After this, our visit to Peggy’s Cove, its lighthouse visible from the memorial, seemed less pressing. However, we turned into the world-famous spot, known for its spectacular rocky shore and tiny fishing harbour. Umpteen other cars and nearly as many tour buses and motorbikes had preceded us. Our cameras recorded the pretty scene, but we didn’t hang around. By this time, our lunch of freshly cooked lobsters were calling us.