It's the kind of tragic accident you find it hard to imagine, and who knows how you'll react when you see something so horrifying. In the aftermath of the death of a 2-year-old boy who slipped from an exhibit railing and was mauled to death by African painted dogs at the Pittsburgh Zoo, more than one conversation has come up about how nobody jumped in to help the boy as the dogs attacked.
Even beginning a conversation about whether the mother should have been holding the child up to see the animals -- or if she should have even been able to get him that close -- is cruel and unusual. Her loss is beyond comprehension, and my heart breaks thinking about how she must be feeling. But people are asking how everyone could just stand there and watch.
The first words out of my friend's mouth last night when we were talking about it were: "Why didn't anyone jump in after him?"
It's a question worth asking, but not with the goal of placing blame on anyone who witnessed the attack. They screamed, shouting that someone needed to do something, but none of them went in after the boy.
Would I have jumped in if it had been my child or my niece that had fallen? My gut reaction is that yes, of course I would. I think? But you don't actually know until you're in a situation how you'll handle it. Maybe things happened so quickly that nobody had the time to react. Maybe the dogs were so ferocious that following the boy into the exhibit was too terrifying. A zoo employee jumped in first and tried banging a rake against the fence to distract the dogs, but it didn't work.
Zoo staff "quickly determined the dog attack was fatal and didn't send handlers into the enclosure to intervene," the AP reported, and tried to recall the dogs to their enclosure. Did they do everything they could? Four of the 11 dogs lingered by the boy, and one of the dogs was shot and killed.
I can't imagine what those minutes must have felt like to everyone there, but it makes sense to me that witnessing such a horrible tragedy would paralyze those families visiting the zoo and the staff, who had never experienced anything like it. Everyone did the best they could.
Do you think you would have risked your own life to try and save the child from the wild dogs?
Image via Mister-E/Flickr