“Just let them come back safe.” You’ve thought it or maybe even said it out loud, maybe under your breath so your children don’t actually hear it. Because you can’t be there when they are out of your sight, and more and more, they want to be out of your sight and living their own new, bright, developing lives.
This past week, two young people didn’t come back safe.
One, a 23-year-old woman, died in an early-morning highway crash on the outskirts of St. John’s. The other, a 16-year-old boy, was involved in a drowning accident at a Flatrock swimming hole that has regularly claimed the lives of young victims.
If you’re a reporter with more than 10 years’ experience in St. John’s, chances are you’ve either done a story on a drowning or near-drowning in Flatrock’s Big River, or you’ve heard fire and rescue crews being dispatched there on the radio scanner as it happened.
Likewise, if you’re a news photographer or camera operator, you’ve covered a horrific and tragic summer accident involving young people that makes you want to just put down your camera there on the side of the road, go home, and hug your kids.
It’s summertime — our too brief summertime — and there’s swimming to be done, cars to get into with friends, parties to go to, long late nights and bright sunny mornings.
You can’t fault young people for wanting to experience it all — you can’t even really fault them for taking chances, if they do, because they’re not yet equipped to exercise the sort of sound judgment that is built by years of experience; not only the experience of learning from others’ mistakes, but from living through your own errors of judgment.
Most of us can look back to a point in our lives when we made a young and foolish choice, a decision that, but for sheer good luck, could have had equally tragic circumstances.
That doesn’t make it any easier for the families left behind after this week’s accidents.
You can only imagine that the parents of these young people are questioning every single step of the day leading up to their loss, that they are second-guessing and reliving every single moment of the day or days before.
But it’s not a parenting mistake; not an error in judgment.
It’s a tragedy.
No matter how much parents love their children, they cannot completely protect them from the world, as much as they would like to.
If you know the families who suffered such a horrible loss this week, support them; lift them up, console them as best you can.
All parents are closer to those dark days that we want to think.