As ephemeral and childlike as the lives it commemorates, a 90-foot sand castle honoring the memory of the 26 victims of Friday's shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut took shape over four days at Monterey's Del Monte Beach.
Each year the city constructs a sand berm to keep high waves from washing over Del Monte Avenue, and after the shooting, Monterey Marina live-aboard Tom Kahlow, 55, a retired commercial fisherman, said he and friends were talking about the deaths of 20 kindergartners and first graders, and the six teachers who tried to protect them, and decided, "Let's build a memorial."
Kahlow said as he and others began work on sculpting the castle on the sand berm Friday afternoon, "Others came and built stuff, a painter who had lots of little trowels came by Saturday and started work on it; a group of interns from Google who were on a trek down to San Simeon came onto Del Monte Beach and built a large section; a lot of kids were involved. It went on all weekend.
"At a couple of points 40 people were standing on the Wharf, taking pictures," Kahlow said. "A little girl, about 6 years old, was standing there and said, 'I wish I could do that.' I said, 'you can. Come on.'"
The builders sculpted temples, pyramids, including a bridge done by CSU Monterey Bay students. "At one time at least 20 people were working on it," Kahlow said, "people from their 80s to about 6 years old, all cultures, foreigners, tourists, everybody got their hands dirty.
"I was laughing with all the guys hanging out, that all you need to entertain a kid is dig a hole and make a pile of sand. It works for adults, too."
Sheriff's Sgt. Derrel Simpson was on his break and saw the activity, came down and talked to the group. He in turn called The Herald about it, noting that Kahlow and the others weren't interested in calling the news media. "I told them I thought it was a cool gesture."
The ad hoc sand castle building continued through Monday morning, when rain began to fall.
"Hopefully it will wet the sand," Kahlow said. "It's getting a little dry."
Kevin Howe can be reached at 646-4416 or firstname.lastname@example.org