I still remember that summer. It was nearly 30 years ago. I was 11 years old. Six months ago we’d moved back to the states. Six months ago my kid brother didn’t have two best friends named Chester and his cousin, Leo. They were both sweet kids. Rambunctious, playful…a lot like my brother. And they both wanted to marry me. Let’s face it, that was never going to happen. The boys were four years younger than me, but it was flattering.
Every summer our church used to have a group summer retreat at Little Grassy Lake in a small town near Carbondale, IL. They’d rent out cabins and have all sorts of fun events for the kids. This was our first summer to go. Many of the families headed out that Wednesday, but we weren’t able to leave until Friday and would only be staying for the weekend….or so we thought.
Even at 11, I knew something was horribly wrong when we arrived. Groups of people were clumped together. Close friends were huddled in circles. The sound of tears and wailing could be heard the instant the van door was opened. There was a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. This was too much like what it sounded like when my youngest brother died nearly a year before. Part of me wanted to wrap my arms over my ears to try to block out the noise that was tearing away at my heart. It was too much, too soon. But I couldn’t.
Instead, my sister, brother and I, along with one of the friends we’d come with held hands as we waited for her parents to find out what had happened. Unfortunately, voices carry…
“I can’t believe Chester Drowned!”
That horrible, horrible sentence seemed to be coming from every direction at once.
My head turned toward the bank further down the hill. Men in blue uniforms were there with a stretcher. Someone was strapped in and covered. Considering the distended belly I couldn’t imagine it could be the same, thin little boy who had argued with his cousin just last week about which of them was going to win my hand.
How was this possible, I wondered. There had been tons of people at the lake. Where had his parents been? Had they not been watching? But I knew better. His parents were protective! What about his many cousins? If he’d been screaming or flailing, he would’ve been rescued immediately! Unlike what happens in the movies, I can guarantee you this never happened. As if I hadn’t already learned how quickly a situation could turn fatal, this was one more example…
Sadly, the search afterward had been caught on video by one of the people there. Friends and family had been looking for him for about 30 minutes before they’d found him and pulled him out. He was already gone. It was the first time I’d seen what a drowning death looked like, and let me tell you, it’s nothing like the movies.
This year a link showed up in my Facebook talking about silent drowning. For Chester and because it’s summertime, I thought I needed to share the link here as well. You never know when it might save a life. Drowning, Quick And Silent-How To Spot Someone In Trouble
The other thing I’ll ask…. Please, please, PLEASE! If you have a pool, supervise your kids. Don’t leave it up to other children to watch out. My neighbors down the street had a few children…I’d see them playing in the street all the time. The youngest was about 2. The parents were never out there; instead they left it up to the 8 and 10 year olds to watch the younger ones. Coming home from work a couple years ago I drove past their house. It was surrounded by police, ambulance and fire trucks.
Thinking maybe one of the kids had finally been hit by a careless driver while playing in the street I said a silent prayer that the injury wasn’t very serious. It wasn’t until I got in to work that one of my employees asked if I knew the little 2 year old baby who’d drowned. Apparently, in the papers it noted that the child had been left in the “supervision” of an older sibling and had made it into the back yard. She’d fallen into the pool. By the time someone noticed it was too late.
I won’t go on a rant about careless parenting. They paid the ultimate price. No one deserves to feel that kind of pain. No child should have to go through that. What I will ask is that you educate yourselves…and love and protect your children. You never know when this knowledge could save a life.