Last week, Cathy Stucker wrote about “Wordless Wednesdays” in her Blogger Link Up. In light of that, I considered posting this last Wednesday:
They say a picture tells a thousand words. Many of us have thousands of words to describe what this picture represents, but we’re struggling to get some of these words up and out of our hearts and minds. And simply posting a photo didn’t do justice to what happened.
Good writers know that journaling and blogging are not synonymous, but that many excellent pieces of writing begin as journal entries. I wrote often last week and thought I had a blog post about the events on the water. I’m not actually a sailor, so I thought about things from a child development perspective – about these kids, their team and a smattering of the ramifications for families and teens. But that voice in the back of my head told me there was something was still amiss. So I turned to my writing gurus, Michele Woodward and Laurie Foley who provided the sage advice, which meant back to the Ipad and writing the prologue to the original blog entry.
Prologue – June 24, 2011
As a teacher and a mom, I rarely – if ever – believe that what my kids tell me is 100% accurate. It’s not that they are untrustworthy. I’ve heard enough to know that many variables go into retelling events, especially when there is a compelling drama at the core. So when my daughter gave me the very rough outline of sailing practice yesterday, I never for a moment considered it to be accurate. But deep down, I was scared to death she was right. After she ate dinner in silence, checked her email, and actually took my advice to just shut her phone off for the night, she went to bed at 8 p.m. An hour later, I had phone calls which confirmed every last detail she told me. I was stunned.
A rarity happened in junior sailing. Some veteran sailors call it a “genuine freak accident” that is “mercifully rare.” It’s something that doesn’t happen but did, taking the life a 14-year-old. Olivia Constants drowned after her boat capsized and “turtled” – meaning it had inverted so that the mast of her two-man, 13 foot boat, pointed down with Olivia underneath. Both skipper and coach worked to free her from the entanglement of lines and her life jacket (which generally does the job of “saving,” but complicates things when the wearer is trapped under a boat). Coaches performed CPR in accordance with safety protocol while the rest of the team watched in close range, sails dropped. Within minutes Olivia was carried onto the closet point of land (the U.S. Naval Academy) where they met the emergency response team. The sailors retreated to shore where they de-rigged in silence, knowing that their team was now an odd-number. Other junior sailors watched from a distance as this tragedy unfolded, unaware of the magnitude of the accident.
Within days, the “R.I.P. Olivia Constants We Love You and Miss You Very Much” Facebook page had over 5000 likes. Many spoke to the joy and love Olivia showed each day and others who didn’t know her, but are inspired by the anecdotes. As family and friends said a tearful, yet uplifting good-bye to Olivia, the team of 13 teenagers clung to each other, literally and electronically. They are bound to be close allies for years to come, as no one besides the team and coaches will fully understand what they experienced. More importantly, they have come together to support each other and the Constants family, to re-dedicate themselves to sailing and safety, and to enjoy as many minutes of each day that they can. Classmates, fellow sailors, and friends are expressing similar sentiments. It’s going to be a long haul, but I believe they’re off on a steady course. This is tough stuff at any age, but is especially vexing for teens who are going through the normal individualization process, yet still need adults are on their side, so that’s where we’ll be when they need us.
If you have sailors, or children in any sport, be certain they are equipped with the most appropriate safety gear, training, and supervision. But as with most sports, accidents do happen even under ideal conditions and with the keenest attention to detail, so hug them tight each day!
NOTE: The Commodore’s statement, “SSA Encouraged by Support in Wake of Death” was published in Hometown Annapolis.