Monday, December 3, 2012

Tragedies in Juneau

Sigh. We've had a couple of terrible tragedies here in Juneau recently. The day after Thanksgiving, three boys (two brothers and a friend in their 20s) were out in a skiff near Tenakee Springs on a hunting trip when their boat was swamped by a wave. The two brothers drowned and the third was able to swim to the shore and survived. Juneau is very small, close community, and this tragedy has been on everyone's minds since it happened. These boys were contemporaries of my cousins, and my aunt knew the families well. It seems like most folks in town have some sort of personal connection to these families. There was a "Celebration of Life" on Saturday night which my aunt attended. She said it was very well attended, and she was able to see many old friends of hers and my cousins. The sadness from the deaths of these brothers was compounded by the fact that these were the only two children in that family. Many people asked themselves how the parents could survive something like this.

Unfortunately, there was more bad news today. The third boy, the only survivor, died late last night. All of the details aren't clear yet, but it appears that he probably died of alcohol poisoning. From what I've heard, he had a reputation for being a heavy drinker, and I can imagine how the stress of the situation of the last week could have sent him over the edge. I don't know how I would handle it either.

Alaska has more than its fair share of tragedies like this... due mostly to the risk level of many outdoor activities here. I've only lived here a short time, but I'm aware of several deaths- many of them young folks- while hiking, boating, hunting, etc. It's a rugged, dangerous country up here, and it is unforgiving. It doesn't stop most of us from getting out there, though. It's why we live here... and sometimes shit happens.

The day after the news broke about the original accident, I was at the Public Market with my aunt- who seems to know just about everyone in town. As she ran into friends and neighbors, before the hugs I first saw looks exchanged of knowing and sympathy. I think it was especially difficult for Aunt Sue because she also has two boys in their 20s. She could more than identify with the Newmans, and it broke her heart to imagine going through something like that with Eric and Kevin.

So if you're the praying type, consider working the Newman and Brown families into your prayers this holiday season.

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