Wednesday, June 22, 2011

30 Year Anniversary of Heath McLaughlin's Death - Be Careful Kids...Please

It seems that each generation's youth finds challenge in exploring the natural world about us.

It was a hot summer day when Heath and Mikey decided to go for a swim in the Lehigh Canal.  Heath couldn't swim very well and the two of them hatched together a raft of logs.  It unraveled. 

The grief his mother must have felt, struck me unexpectedly when his stone confronted me the other afternoon.  Beside the fact of seeing his mother's name, was reading the inscription across the bottom: "God is our refuge & strength...A very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1). 

I wasn't particularly close to Heath.  But Mikey, Rim and Hoatsie and I spent many afternoons together exploring around the canal: on our bikes, with our poles, along the tracks daring a fire-breathing locomotive to come along and push us off.  But I can't help but think what I would have done or could have done if we were all together that day.  Heath's "present help" wasn't enough on that day.  I remember all of us boys gathered around the fire house as the responders returned.  We knew the answer, but I had to ask.  The one man, with his flat back, barrel chest and pus-gut making a perfect "D"-shape, answered my query with "well he certainly isnt smiling anymore."
(CLICK here for Lehigh River death and Heath.)

After posting this link on Facebook, I got a number of people say that they too remember that day.  Damian Walck and David Pasternak were biking up the tow path when they encountered Heath's frantic friend (Mikey Strohl) who was pedaling down to them in a real panic.  He was screaming, "My friend is drowning."

So Damian and David pedaled as hard as they could and went to Drumbore's Garage and Auto Parts, just up from the Boatyard near the start of Fairyland Road before Motola's.  When he called it into the police, they didn't believe him but sent the rescue call anyway.

Damian said, "We met up with the reporter when we rode back to the canal...that's where he asked us what happened...It was a actually my first experience of that nature...I was only 11." 
Heath McLaughlin

Four years prior to Heath's death, our community lost a talented athlete in Mark Krieger.  He fell to his death during a day of "hooky" from school with his friends at Glen Onoko.  Just this week 2 hikers and a first responder were injured at the Glen.  The first hiker fell from the second falls.
(CLICK here for the Times News Article.)

These are the lessons my generation grew up with.  As I write this, my son Jon and his recently graduated friends J.T. and Matt are heading off to Wild Creek.  So kids, be careful out there, please.  Think of Heath's smile, and the many more he could have had, had he lived all these 30 years since.

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