Friday, July 13, 2012

Two drown at Port Burwell

I'll be quick. Two kids - a 7-year-old boy and his 10-year-old sister - drowned at the main beach Port Burwell earlier today. It's obviously too early to know precisely what happened, and I'm sure details on this accident will filter out in the days and weeks to come. But the pattern is already depressingly, tragically familiar.

So, as I often do when the world seems to spin slightly off its axis, I posted to Twitter:

And before long, I received this reply:

To which I responded:

And the conversation descended from there:

I'm guessing I was a little frustrated by the end. And I'm guessing by the time all is said and done, I'm going to have one less Twitter follower, as we clearly don't see eye to eye on this one. But here's the deal: I was a lifeguard for most of my teenaged years. I spent my days watching over kids whose parents and caregivers would either drop them off and leave them there, alone, all day, or would stay on-site while their kids ran roughshod throughout the pool area. Their attitude: Someone else will take care of my kid.

My apologies if I disagree with that attitude. It isn't the lifeguards' responsibility to take care of your kid. It's yours. Sure, guards have ultimate responsibility for the safety of the area and everyone in it, but if you think it's acceptable to simply walk away and let them be solely responsible for ensuring your kid stays alive, you're mistaken.

My kids are all excellent swimmers. Yet every time we go to the beach, I'm watching them like a hawk, because you never know. My eyes don't leave them, because strong as they are, a rogue current or wave could easily throw them off. It's unfathomable to me that I'd leave that sole accountability in the hands of someone in a tower who's also got to watch thousands of other people in a crowded, chaotic environment. So I don't.

Already this year, drowning stats in Ontario and Quebec are headed for record highs. A two-year-old died this week in a backyard pool, another toddler was pulled from a fish pond...and they were always out of sight for "just a second." My Twitter colleague may think I have no right, that my words are in poor taste, that speaking about it won't change anything.

But I remember full well what it felt like to pull a vital signs-absent four-year-old from the bottom of the deep end, then try to keep myself from coming apart as I worked on him for what seemed like forever before he finally came back to us. His instructor had turned away for "just a second". His name was Kirk, and I'll never forget how that so-called accident happened, and what it did to all of us when it was all over. It changes you - and this one had a happy ending. What happens when it doesn't? Like today?

I dont care how impolite Mr. Matthews thinks I am: Something needs to change. Now.

Your turn: Thoughts?

Update - Sun July 22: I'll be on-air live with CBC Ontario Morning's Mike Ewing tomorrow (Mon July 23) at 7:10 a.m. Eastern to discuss this issue. Hope you can tune in. Link here.

Update - Tue July 31: My handy dandy Twitter Unfollower Tracker feature confirms that Mr. Matthews has unfollowed me. I know, such a surprise :)


MissMeliss said...

As a parent yourself, as a former lifeguard, as a conscientious citizen of the world, you had - and have - every right to post what you posted.

I'm NOT a child, and I am a strong swimmer (I learned how to swim in the ocean), and my backyard pool is shallow enough that my head is above water in most of it, if I stand on my toes, but I still text my husband when I start and end my daily swim time.

Water is unpredictable. Safety first.

tibbulator said...

Post away! I think Mr. Tim perhaps needs a stiff reality check. When it comes to matters such as these, tact is to speak to caution, not ignore it.

Good blog post!

Courtney said...

I agree that you have every right to post what you did. For me as a parent and former lifeguard it just serves as a reminder that all it takes is a second. We are going to the beach tomorrow and you can bet I won't lose sight of my two.

keith said...

Meaningful writing Carmi. I agree you were right to post your very valid concerns.

keith said...

I agree this was a meaningful post.

keith said...

Meaningful writing Carmi. I agree you were right to post your very valid concerns.

Max Sartin said...

Let's see, Twitter is full of things like "Had a burger for dinner", "Dumped my girlfriend", "Went for the blue curtains" and "Just got lucky".
Nah, what you said is not in bad taste, especially by Twitter standards.

Laurie said...

Content aside (which I also agree with, by the way), the unspoken issue (unwritten?) is that it is YOUR Twitter account, and you can tweet whatever you want -whether people agree or not- whether the like it or not, or whether it offends them or not. You get to decide what material you write. Others get to decide whether to follow or unfollow. You don't have to apologize or get permission for your tweets.

Unknown said...

Carmi: I'm glad I stopped by. Recently I heard a talk by Olympic swimmer Janet Evans who has two young children herself. She spoke about the need to never once take your eyes off of a child at the pool. Your message here likely made other young parents who read it more aware. In fact, you may have saved a life by writing this! I am in your corner. Children need adults with your sensibilities!! Well done, Carmi!

Anonymous said...

*stands and claps for someone speaking out*

Parental involovement/responsibility seem to be a romantic notion from days gone by. At least that's what it feels like whenever we go to "kid places" (or anywhere public) and I see kids running wild while parents socialize or are absent altogether. I watch my kids like a hawk (water, park, zoo, restaurant, Walmart, our backyard...)and I'm often labelled overbearing or over cautious- a nervous nellie.
I'm GUILTY- and gladly so- that's my job: I'm a parent.

Kudos to you for using twitter for good!

fredamans said...

I think Tim missed your point Carmi, or maybe is someone who doesn't have kids of his own and has no idea what a parent would think when reading not one but two kids drown. There is DEFINITE negligence on someone's part... who do we blame, the kids that died???
Tim, your a twit.

Rachel said...

I agree wholeheartedly. People don't like it when we flash the uncomfortable truth at their faces because they are too comfortable to change. Hey, the inconvenient truth, right?