When most people hear I don't know how to swim, they assume I grew up in some landlocked town far from water and my parents never took me to a pool. They're wrong twice over: I grew up beside a river and spent summer after summer in swimming lessons. And yet, just like the heroic grandmother who died this week trying to rescue her 3-year-old granddaughter in the pool, I'm a major drowning risk.
The Woodbridge, California tragedy scares me today because that could be me. A woman and child are dead because of a nightmare that points out pool safety isn't just about little kids.
There are plenty of grown folks in America who don't know how or can't swim. There's me, who -- despite all those lessons and a childhood spent literally feet from one of America's major rivers -- is just so uncoordinated that I can't do it. There are people who grew up too poor for lessons and far from water. There are people with medical conditions and mental conditions ... And you can say, well then, those people shouldn't go near water, but tragedies like this prove it's not that simple.
Police say the little girl and grandmother were discovered by the employee of a lawn maintenance company, so they can only guess at what happened. Because there was a stroller in the pool, they're guessing the child fell in, and the grandmother jumped in after her to rescue her. Because Grandma couldn't swim herself, both, tragically, drowned.
But what choice would you have given her? She jumped in because that's what people do when there is a child in the pool -- whether they can swim or not. It's called being selfless and caring about a child in need. The tragic ending doesn't negate her heroism.
But heroism doesn't address how tragedies like this happen to begin with. I wasn't in the least bit surprised to find out there was no gate blocking access to the pool at the family's rental home. I live in a state where this is the law, and I can't tell you how many people have still skipped out on this simple life-saving option.
They complain that it costs too much or that "oh well, you know, I know how to swim and so do my kids."
OK, but why take the risk? You don't think you'll ever have someone else there? There will never be a reason to put safety measures in place? Never ever?
Let's be realistic for a second. Kids see water (and they don't see property lines) as fun without seeing the hazard. And if a kid goes into the water, guess who goes after them ...
How many people do you know who can't swim? How old are they?
Image via slava/Flickr