Drownings prompt safety warnings

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Following the many drownings that occurred at the beaches of Northwest Florida over the weekend, we must all take time to stop and reflect on the cause of such horrific events, and how they can be prevented.

At the surface, the drownings could have all been prevented. Adhering life guard warnings, flag warnings, and in some cases -- warnings of law enforcement officers flying overhead in helicopters to avoid the water could have kept families from the tragic outcome of this year's family vacation.

No matter how good a swimmer some one is, Mother Nature is still stronger.

Rough weather at the coast Friday and Saturday churned up seas to un-swimable limits. Warning flags were out, life guards on watch, and yes, the helicopters shouting warnings.

It was to no avail. Some people simply think they can out swim the fury of rough seas.

That's not the case. Three drownings. Three lost lives. And though no one can bring back those family members -- future lose can be prevented.

Living close to the coast, one can find Covington County residents at the beaches of Northwest Florida on a daily basis. And though we consider ourselves as close to being a "local" as you can get, and knowing the water as well as anyone -- we're not, and we don't.

And neither do the coastal residents.

No one can conquer the seas stirred by Mother Nature. High waves, rough undercurrents and shifting sands.

The warning flags are there for a reason. Know them. The lifeguards are there for a reason. Listen to their instructions.

Going to the beach can be a fun, relaxing, worry-free afternoon. Don't let it be your last. Know the rules. Know how nature works. Two days of severe storms followed by a clear day doesn't mean the water's fine. It simply means the trouble lies beneath.

Exercise caution. Always have a partner, and above all -- follow the posted instructions and warnings.

Father's Day will never be the same

By Nancy Blackmon

Noise filled the house. Children ran up and down the stairs giggling while their parents struggled to talk over the laughter.

A wave of new arrivals brought hugs and louder voices as more kids joined the fun. In the middle of all the mayhem, Daddy sat quietly in his recliner taking it all in.

If I close my eyes, I can still see it - Daddy's face, Mother leaning on the back of his chair smiling. They were an island in the middle of a sea of children, grandchildren and a great-grandchild or two.

That was the scene at Father's Day, and at most holidays, since my sisters, brothers and I have been adults. We descended on my parents' house bringing laughter and appetites and shared memories.

Last year, we were excited because we were surprising Daddy with a new printer/scanner/copier/fax for his computer. For a week before Father's Day, there were telephone discussions and e-mails back and forth between children.

The gift procurer was my brother, Bob who lives in Pensacola. On Father's Day Sunday, he called to say he was running late because in his rush he forgot the gift and had turn around and go all the way back home.

Of course, that was the laugh of the day and another story to add to the collection that has accumulated over the years.

I looked back at the pictures I took that day. There is one of Bob standing beside Daddy at the breakfast room table. The two are examining the box that holds our gift. In another shot, Bob is helping Daddy pull away wrapping paper.

I smiled when I saw the look on Daddy's face. Although the effort was exhausting for him, he seemed to enjoy ripping off paper and ribbons.

As I flipped through the pictures, images from other Father's Days came into my head. I saw us all as children rushing into Daddy and Mother's bedroom carrying homemade creations. Year after year, Daddy acted surprised and pleased with the taped and glued and glittered gifts.

Now it is almost Father's Day again, and I'm not sure I am ready to face reality this year.

There will be no celebration with Daddy as the centerpiece because he slipped from this life late last fall. Even after all these months, the fact that he is gone hits me hard and at the oddest times.

"I'll never walk into that house and see him sitting at the table," I whisper to the empty air. "Not ever again."

That thought overwhelms me with sadness. That was what was happening when my youngest daughter ran in wanting a hug. I looked into her face and realized I was seeing my father's deep brown eyes looking back at me. They are the same eyes I see when I look at my own face in the mirror.

Yes, I thought, this Father's Day will be different because Daddy won't be sitting in his recliner in the middle of a sea of laughing children, but he is not gone.

The love he shared with his family lives on in his children and their children and on and on and on…