>> Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Some things completely flabbergast me, and this is one of them. Six teens drowned in a river while their friends and families were picnicking close at hand.
Look, I recognize that people do things that are, in hindsight, not too bright. Like sending your kids into a river you think you know well when neither you nor they know how to swim or, apparently, have any effective flotation devices. Not to say that such doesn't sound like a really bad, if not abysmally stupid, idea, but I know there are many things people do that strike me the same way, like shooting guns in the air on New Years or handing one's ten year old an automatic weapon. Like sending your grade school kids off to the unlife-guarded apartment pool alone or letting them wade, waist-deep, in flood waters while lightning strikes in the distance. But those have all happened, too.
Sometimes, people have a poor understanding basic dangers (just as some people inflate those dangers to a degree that similarly defies logic, but that's a different blog post). Hindsight can be painfully humiliating as well as tragic.
But there is one aspect I completely don't understand.
There was a large group of adults handy, apparently, "family and friends". A family friend that was there said, "None of us could swim. They were yelling, 'Help me, help me. Somebody please help me." It was nothing I could do but watch them drown one by one." That's what I just don't understand.
What I don't understand, just can't understand, is how adults of nearly any flavor could knowingly stand on the shore while children drowned, called out for help, called out to be saved. Understanding, of course, that the adults also didn't know how to swim, I still don't get it.
Can't make a line holding hands? Can't tread water? Didn't have anything that could be used as a flotation or reach or grabbable device? A fishing pole? A towel? Something?
How do you live the rest of your life with that? A few years back, I was at a talk by a fireman on safety day who explained, if you're outside a burning house and your kid is inside, you need to stay where you are and not go after them. I understood why he said it, understood his reasoning, understood that I was desperately unqualified to run into a building and save a trapped child, but I told him honestly that, if I was outside a burning building and my child - or any child - was inside, the only way people could keep me out would be with a dog pile. I'd rather be dead than wonder the rest of my life if I could have done something.
Apparently, one person (described as a bystander) jumped in and managed to rescue one teenager so six died instead of seven (and others might have tried), but I'm at a loss to understand how six children (teenagers) could have died that way with no more involvement from the adults there than described. I'm confused and heartbroken and astounded because I know that could never happen around most of the people I know, that they, like me, would rather end up in the bottom of the river themselves than not dive in after them, swimming talent or not.
It's a tragedy and I don't want to dump any more grief on anyone. I feel actually for them, for the people who felt helpless on the side of the river. I feel sorrier for them than I do for the children whose lives were cut short. After all, for the children, their suffering is over.