We hadn’t lived at our new house more than a few weeks when the neighbors came knocking at our door. I don’t remember their faces. I think I was still entranced with the idea of our new place. But, though the open window screens, I remember the frantic tone of the mother’s voice. Her baby daughter was missing. Even though I was barely seven years old at the time, by the adults’ reaction, I could tell it was serious.
It was warm, a perfect day in May. But soon there were county police searching the area. Somber fears were eventually confirmed when her body was found. One of the families a few houses down had gone away for the weekend, leaving their in-ground pool unattended. The little girl had pushed her way through the tall shrubs that all but hid the pool from view, removed her diaper and jumped in. With no one at home, her thrashing and cries for help went unnoticed. By the time she was found, it was too late.
It would seem like a no-brainer that installing an in-ground pool would automatically warrant a protective fence. But, I suppose, hindsight is 20/20 and it only took one accident to occur before the people in our neighborhood began taking precautions. Considering the number of pools that were installed in our neighborhood, this was the only accident I can recall in the 15 or so years my family lived there.
The little girl’s passing shocked everyone. It raised all of our awareness about the importance of pool safety. Luckily it was one of the few things that our family had rules about for our own pool. No swimming without an adult, no running around the deck, and no swimming in a thunderstorm. In the years that followed, when we were finally allowed to spend summers without a babysitter, we stuck to those rules in spite of being unsupervised.
I’m sure my parents would recall us as little hellions, but frankly, we were good kids. We never broke the rules for the pool. Not once. Even though we totally could have gotten away with it. What shocks me as an adult is how careless the people in our current neighborhood are with their children and their pools. This afternoon, like so many others, I witness at least a dozen kids in the pool in our neighbor’s yard. No adults anywhere, not even as the kids attempt back flips from the standing ladder into what can generously be described as four feet of water.
Sadly, perhaps it takes an event like a child’s death or serious injury to get people’s attention, to make them watch their kids. It’s a shame that it may come to that, especially when I see how reckless their unsupervised play has become.