Before a family vacation last week to the Oregon coast, I firmly made up my mind: I wanted to see the 66-foot dock that washed away from Japan in last year's tsunami.
As a journalist, I hoped seeing the dock would be my chance to apologize. Since the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, I've written countless stories about people who had their lives ripped apart, but I never knew their name. I wanted to finally say how sorry I am for their loss.
But standing next to the dock on Agate Beach, I felt a bit let down.
The dock no longer bares any connection to the disaster from which it came from. All traces of Japanese writing or lettering has been removed, probably to prevent theft. Stark, white "No Trespassing" signs are now spray-painted on its surface about every 20 feet.
But visitors don't really heed the warning. A large log leans up against it, acting as a ramp for anyone who wants to climb up. Teenagers pose on top with funny faces for their Facebook pages. I overheard a father scolding his young son who had a fist-full of wet sand: "Don't throw things at it!"
If you do decide to make the trip, don't count on being the only one. At low tide there are literally hundreds of people who make the mile-long trek to view the dock up close.
The dock will only remain on the beach for about another two weeks, before its dismantled and removed. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department has said parts will be used for a memorial.
If you want to visit, it's not hard to find, but not visible from Highway 101. If you drive southbound on 101, as you're entering Newport turn right onto Northwest Oceanview Drive and park at the Agate Beach State Park lot. Walk out to the beach and you'll see it about a mile north from where you are standing.
In related news, there was a lot of confusion near Pacific City, Oregon today, about 47 miles north of Newport, when somehow a picture posted on the Tillamook Headlight-Herald Facebook page turned into a U.S. Coast Guard search for a second dock.