CAMDEN, Maine — Twenty people grasped hands at Harbor Park at noon Saturday, faced the water and became part of the worldwide Hands Across the Sand movement that is against offshore oil drilling and for clean energy.
The Camden event was one of 13 such gatherings scheduled Saturday around Maine, including events in the coastal communities of Stockton Springs and Owls Head.
An estimated 200 people gathered at Portland’s East End Beach. The Portsmouth Herald says a similar event was held at Wallis Sands State Park in Rye, N.H., on Saturday afternoon.
More than 800 events were held nationwide and in countries as far away as South Africa, Australia, the United Kingdom and Japan.
Local organizer Kimberly Wyke of Camden led her line of somber adults and children in a healing prayer for the Gulf of Mexico, which has been polluted with millions of gallons of oil since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded on April 20.
“I’m sorry, please forgive me, I love you, thank you,” Wyke, a shamanic healer, intoned at Harbor Park.
Her voice carried clearly over the hustle and bustle of Camden Harbor on a beautiful summer day.
“You’re talking to the water, folks,” she said.
“You’re also talking to all the creatures in the water. You’re also talking to all the people whose livelihoods depend on the water. We’re also talking to prevent oil slicks here, in our harbor.”
The participants spent 15 minutes holding hands and joining in the prayer, not distracted from their task by the sight of tourists strolling by or schooner crew members hosing down decks and rolling wheelbarrows down the dock. Ducks swam placidly in the inner harbor and the salty breeze was redolent of the perfume of beach roses.
“We’re talking to the whales,” Wyke said. “We’re talking to the dolphins. We’re talking to the manatees. We’re talking to the seals. We’re talking to the sea gulls … I am talking to all of us in this line. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.”
The Hands Across the Sand movement began in Florida in February when thousands of people joined hands to protest efforts to lift the ban on oil drilling near Florida, according to the organization’s website.
John Parkman of Camden said after the event that he wanted to be part of Hands Across the Sand because he thinks the oil spill is a national tragedy.
“It’s similar to 9-11 or Pearl Harbor,” the self-described conservative Republican said. “But we’re not dealing with it that way. … We want to leave a much better place for our kids and our grandkids.”
Nancy Linkin of Camden brought two of her sons to the event.
“To me, this isn’t really about the oil spill,” she said. “This is much bigger. We need to find alternatives so that we don’t need to think about drilling.”
Linkin said that she appreciated the healing prayer.
“We’ve really brought ourselves to the edge — and maybe over the edge,” she said. “Really, we are all part of the problem, and we need to create the solutions.”
Her son Zachary Stern, 14, said that there was a lot of discussion of the oil spill in his classes before school let out for the summer.
“Probably the majority of kids are saying, OK, this happened — we’ve got to fix it,” he said.
For one man, attending the Hands Across the Sand gathering felt particularly crucial. Fletch Bennett lives in Sarasota, Fla., and is visiting family in Camden.
“We have the most beautiful beaches in the world,” he said of his Gulf Coast community. “If this continues, we’ll lose our beaches.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.