Suzy Snapper
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Tragic Loss
One of the fixtures of living where I do is the rural ditches that allow the water to flow back into the river from our island. The land here is 3' under sea level and the ditches are an integral part of the land.

When I was growing up, we all had 'waterfront' property with ditches forming a sort of 'fence' at the end of our yards. It was where we spent a lot of our time. As little ones, sitting at the edge trying to catch frogs, tadpoles, fish and even the odd salamander.

We learned to respect them too. They were full of sludge water and if you ever fell in, the mere stench of you squishing through your socks and shoes on the way home would have your mother outside with the hose before you even opened the gate. When we learned to drive, we were told over and over again that we needed to be extra careful around the big ones. 'You don't get a second chance if you go in there', my Dad would warn.

As the town grew into a city, money was spent to erradicate the ditches and put in proper piping to 'beautify' the town. No more 'Ditchmond' as it was once called. But some of the outer areas still have big, canal-like trenches. Mostly in the farmlands and usually in low traffic areas.

Now, the young kids today don't really seem to have the same cautiousness around them. Of course, at the danger of painting all kids with the same brush, it just seems that things have changed so much. When I was a teenager, at least one ir two new drivers in high school would take the corner too fast and end up in the ditch. If they were lucky, they'd end up with parasitic pneumonia and if not, well, they would be remembered fondly.

On Sunday night, about a block away from my work, three young kids - a 19 year old boy and two girls aged 17 and 20, lost control and plunged into the deep canal, upside down. They perished. Because of the quiet rural area it occured in, there were no witnesses and it was only much later, when someone came across tire tracks and realized what had occured. Much too late, and now 3 families have lost their loved ones too soon.

There has been much talk about the young 19 year old man driving without an unrestricted license. We have a graduated driver's license program here. When one has the 'N' (new driver) status, they must not drive with more than one non-family member in car, unless that person is over 25 and has a valid driver's license themselves. It's a red herring, as far as I am concerned.

This young man made a grave mistake, one that all of us have probably made over and over again. He was driving maybe a little too fast, took a corner a little too quickly - just as pretty much everyone has done at one time or another, but for him, it cost him his life and that of his friends. It wouldn't have been quick. There would have been an absoutely terrifying time when they realized they were trapped and had no way of getting out.

The local newspaper has a touching opinion piece about it here, which reads in part:

How much over the limit was he driving? Was alcohol involved? Have there been other offenses? Were the road signs clearly visible? Was rain a factor?

And, for the families, it's questions like: Why didn't I suggest she stay home that night? Why did he have to take that route? Why didn't I say I love her before she left?

But while we torture ourselves with imponderables, perhaps the only thing that can be said is accidents happen and our hearts are breaking. Often in cases like this we look for someone or something to blame. But if we're honest we'll admit, it can happen to any family.

The last couple of days there has been a growing roadside memorial. As I drive by on my way to and from work, and at lunch, I see groups of people in varying degrees of devastation sitting at the edge of the ditch. My heart aches for them. A tough lesson to learn so early in life.

Yesterday, though, I was appalled at the news coverage. A man from one of our local news channels walked right in front of my car and I had to slam on the brakes. He had eyed a girl - who I later realized was the sister of the deceased on verge of a collapse and wanted to film it. Absolutely sickened me. Why does someone's private grief need to be intruded on? Will it make me watch the news more to see someone's vivid pain? No...just the opposite. I know what it's like to lose a close loved one, and to have someone belittle it by trespassing on that moment is beyond disgusting.

Tell me about the accident. Tell me about the wonderful people these were. Tell me about their accomplishments. But don't show me their destroyed family. I don't need to see that to feel grief and imagine the loss these people are going through. I guess it's not surprising if I think about it. It just was an eye opener to see it actually being played out in front of me.

In any case, the facts remain. Three young lives gone before they even started. And many more who will never be the same because of it.

Vancouver, British Columbia
A patriotic Canadian full of visions of a better Canada, random thoughts and a lot of hot air. Who am I? A struggling writer and photographer trapped in a corporate buyer's body. Steel shopping by day, and freeflowing prose by night. One day I hope to have the nights become my days, but am intimidated by the sheer amount of people who share my dream. So I read. A lot. I learn. A lot. I push myself. A lot. The world is a small place, and getting smaller every day. I'm proud to have friends in every corner of the earth, and abide by the old adage that there are no strangers, only friends we haven't met yet.
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