As the Newport Beach City Council meeting commenced Tuesday night, three large images of a smiling young man were displayed next to the country, state and city flags at the dais.
More than 20 lifeguards, some dressed in their red swim trunks, looked on as the council members acknowledged deep grief over the loss of a hero, lifeguard Ben Carlson, who died saving a swimmer in rough surf Sunday.
Below are excerpts from their remarks.
Mayor Rush Hill: No words can accurately describe the magnitude of losing Ben — the depth of grief felt throughout the organization, community and public safety. We are indeed united in heartbreak.... Ben died while saving another man's life. There is no greater sacrifice, and his heroic actions will forever be a part of the Newport Beach history.
Councilman Keith Curry: On our beaches, [lifeguards] risk their lives literally hundreds of times a day, pulling people out of the water in a situation that could be as dangerous and potentially fatal as Ben found himself in. It's good for us to stop and remember that, because for most of us, we don't risk our lives helping other people in the jobs that we do. We just do our jobs.
Councilwoman Leslie Daigle: I can relate to the death of lifeguard Ben Carlson and the sorrow of his family. My father, Dr. Richard Daigle, drowned when his ship went down in Cape Cod Bay. With this memory in mind, I extend my condolences to Ben's family, friends and co-workers and the community he served with commitment, distinction and pride.
Councilman Tony Petros: I swim in that ocean three to four times a week, and I'm greeted when I do swim by the faces of the lifeguards, who I know are there to protect me. I never once think that I'm at risk, knowing that those brave young men and women are there, doing their job, and I often wonder, do you think that your day may not bring you home? I don't think Ben did, and if he did, it was something in the back of his mind.
— Emily Foxhall