Over the holiday weekend, and with the onset of soaring temperatures, the Arizona Republic ran a lengthy Page One article titled One Fatal Moment, detailing the 21 Valley children who died as a result of drowning this past year.
Just beneath the headline were these words: A distracted parent. A determined child. An inviting pool. It takes just one minute, and Valley families are left with a lifetime of grief.
It’s difficult not to be struck by the fact that these children were victims of more than a “distracted” parent. The photos of cherubic young faces accompanied a list of the activities engaged in by the “supervisors” (the newspaper’s word, not ours) of these mostly infants and toddlers who needlessly perished. Some were in backyards, others at community pools or even in their home bathtubs. Many of the adults were talking on the phone, texting or sleeping. They certainly were not watching their children or those in their charge. Were the doors locked or pools fenced? If not, why not?
The truth is, these are preventable deaths, caused by inattention. They are child neglect in the extreme. The adults are torn by grief and guilt, as they should be. But the children’s lives are irretrievably snuffed out.
If a child killer marauded through Valley neighborhoods randomly killing dozens of young children each and every year, there would be an outraged cry to find and bring such offenders to justice. When they are parents or babysitters, people merely shake their heads, cluck over how sad it is, and then inevitably say “they’ve suffered enough.”
If these “supervisors” were charged with child endangerment, they might get the message — one that would resonate with others who still think it’s safe to leave babies unattended in bathtubs or young children by themselves in the yard while “supervisors” go in the house to answer the phone.
How many more children must die?