Hi Readers — Last week I wrote a piece on ParentDish about the tragedy that happened here in New York: A mom was holding her 6-month-old, posing for her husband to take a photo just outside the Central Park Zoo, when a tree branch fell killing the baby and seriously injuring the mom.
My piece, however, dwelt not on the tragedy nor the sadness, but on the fact that the father — understandably beside himself with grief — is preparing a lawsuit against the city. This, even though the branch was leafy and seemingly healthy, and the tree had been pruned in March and found sound.
A lot of readers jumped on me for being cold and callous for saying, I guess starkly, that sometimes we forget that fate exists. Fate is fickle, cruel — well, actually, it doesn’t have any feelings at all. It’s just a word that tries to explain that terrible things sometimes happen and no human is to blame. People hate hearing this, or at any rate aren’t used to it, and they find it more upsetting than finger-pointing. Or maybe I just put it all badly, and the readers thought I didn’t feel anything for the parents.
Anyway, there were two responses that I really appreciated that I am reprinting here. First, from a guy named Rob C:
….The point of Lenore’s article wasn’t, “Aww, yer babby was killed, suck it up”, it was that sometimes horrible things do happen, but these horrible things are not necessarily anyone’s fault.
How do you propose to prevent a terrible accident like this happening again? Fence off all the damn trees? Then wait for somebody to sue the city when they’re injured climbing a fence to go sit under a tree?”
And from Gever Tulley, author of the book, 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do):
Topic #19 in Fifty Dangerous Things is “Stand on the Roof”, which encourages parents to help their kids get up on the roof of their house and have a look around. A reporter recently asked me “What do you say to the parent whose child fall off of the roof and dies?” – this is the trump card of the narrow-minded. It is the same end-move in the game of escalation that happens when talking to administrators about letting children ride bikes to school.
The truth is that there are more than 81 million children living in the United States at any given moment, and chance plays a part in their lives. Someone in California will get bitten by a shark, someone will get hit by a piece of debris that falls off of an airplane, someone will be struck by lightning – for any given individual, the chances are infinitesimal, but when you multiply even the tiniest number by 81 million and again by 12-14 hours of activity, the chance that someone, somewhere, will meet an untimely end in a seemingly random manner becomes non-zero. As a physicist once told me, everything that can happen, will happen, eventually.
My heart goes out the parents of the child killed by the falling branch, but if they had been walking in a National Park, or hanging out in their grandparents’ back yard would we think of the “blame” equation differently?
That’s it. Just trying to talk about a tough topic — fate — and having a hard time. — Lenore