Nobody is supposed to be gone when they’re not even 25 years old. Unfortunately, it happens. Illnesses certainly can take young people. Vehicular accidents take young people. And sometimes, sadly, even our own decisions can cost the ultimate price.
In light of the second death in just five weeks at “the cliffs” at Guernsey State Park this past weekend, it’s time to press the message hard that this activity is simply too risky to make it worth taking the chance.
It would probably be hard to find very many young people who were raised in the area that haven’t done this or weren’t present with friends who did this at least once while they were growing up. And while it’s true that we haven’t had many fatalities linked to cliff jumping over the years, we have had a number of people injured, some very seriously, and the risk has ALWAYS been there. We’ve indeed been very fortunate that more haven’t died and even one death is too many.
It reminds me of another situation our community dealt with over a period of years that involved high risk. We had a number of kids who built pseudo “surf boards” that they tied to the south river bridge and stood on, riding against the heavy river current to simulate surfing--and not suprisingly, it was referred to as “scurfing.” My own sons were involved in this activity as well--and despite parental warnings and disapproval, many community kids participated. There were official warnings from the town and signs were posted several times trying to get this activity stopped but it still seemed to come up every summer. But in 2006, one local young man came very, very close to paying the ultimate price for some fun in the river. Had it not been for three railroad workers out for a walk near the bridge one particular evening, we would have been burying an 11-year-old who got tangled up in the ropes that tied his scurfboard to the bridge. Finally, the message became clear to our young people--this was truly too dangerous to be doing and I don’t believe we’ve had an issue with it since. I hope it stays that way but my regret is that it took a near-death for our kids to see this wasn’t a good idea.
So now my hope is that these two young men, whose families must now cope with their loss, have at least shown their peers that cliff jumping simply isn’t worth the huge risk taken to do it. It doesn’t matter one bit where they were from or that we may not have known them personally. Just like us, they have family, they have friends and their loss is devastating to those people.
Our beautiful state park should be a place of fun and great memories for everyone who comes through the gates. It’s a great place to spend summer days with plenty of opportunities for fun--the type of place young people should enjoy. Our state parks offer a great refuge from the day to day but the outdoors and related activities have to be respected for the inherent risks that are part of them. We all have to make good decisions about how we spend that time and despite that invincible feeling we’ve all had in our youth, we have to let our young people know that youth doesn’t guarantee safety, especially when we engage in high risk behavior.
It CAN happen to you, so make this warning the last--because nobody is supposed to be gone when they have so much life ahead.