Saying Hi

“And I go back to the loss of a real good friend
and the 16 summers I shared with him.
Now ‘Only The Good Die Young’ stops me in my tracks.
Every time I hear that song,
I go back.”

Kenny Chesney

 

“You think Lee will say hi today?” asked Fiancé this morning while peering out the window.

He must have noticed the puzzlement on my face because he quickly continued – “It’s supposed to thunderstorm today,” he said.

Since Lee’s passing seven years ago today, Fiancé has continually calmed my nerves and thwarted my fears in regards to thunderstorms by saying thunderstorms were just Lee saying hi – similar to when I was much, much younger and my mother would tell me the angels were bowling. Since I’m not a fan of bowling, the idea of Lee saying hi has always been much more pleasant, especially on a day like today – the anniversary of his death.

Currently, it is storming – over “Celebration” by Madonna on the local radio station and the sound of my fingers striking the keyboard, I can hear thunder from my office. I can hear Lee saying hi, and it’s a sweet sound – a celebration of his life of sorts.

Rest in peace, my friend.

 

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Clarity: Seven Years In The Making

Next week [Monday, July 22] will mark seven years since the passing of my dear friend, Lee. And in those seven years I’ve found my wings and grown into the young lady before you today – I’m the assistant editor of three weekly community newspapers; I freelance for two magazine publications; I’m a fiancée and will be a wife in two months and 10 days [But who is counting?!]; I’m a half-marathon finisher; and I like to think I’m a pretty great friend, older sister, daughter, etc. and soon-to-be sister-in-law, daughter-in-law, etc.

In those seven years, a lot has changed for me personally, and in growing I found acceptance – acceptance not only for who I am, but also for Lee’s death. For years, I was bitter; angry; and unsettled. But, those days are gone and I didn’t come to that realization until last night.

After a long workday and walking into my house, I was greeted by Fiancé who excitedly said he had something to show me. I dropped my bags and headed to the TV where he turned on a recorded news program.

The program highlighted the Borough of Cresskill who had just unanimously approved an ordinance that would fine residents who ignore lightning alarms as much as $1,000.  Under the new Cresskill ordinance, anyone who fails to vacate a field or public pool within 10 minutes of a lightning alarm could face the fine.

The broadcast journalist, stationed at a Cresskill field, interviewed a local woman on hand. Before I knew it, she uttered Lee’s name. In 2006, two teens were struck by lightning in Montvale, killing them, she said. Since, towns around New Jersey have adopted lightning detection systems, and more are in the process of installing them, she continued.

Then images of my friends and I hugging, crying and huddled around “the spot” where Lee lost his life flashed across the screen. In an instant, a flash of light, I was transported back to that field – my heart indeed was heavy, hurting, bleeding.

But, a light bulb went off.

For years I’ve been keeping this blog and watching towns throughout New Jersey, specifically Bergen County, install lightning detection systems in light of Lee’s tragedy. In light of Lee’s tragedy.

Last night, for the first time, I realized Lee was taken for a reason – a reason that will save others lives. Lee’s death has made a difference. Lee’s death is making a difference.

In life, Lee went out of his way to put a smile on the faces of friends and even strangers. So, in death, it is not surprising to me that he’s still attempting to help people.

That was his life purpose. And, for that, my heart is finally content. Sure I wish he were here with me – I wish that everyday. But, I’m tired of being even an ounce bitter. I’m tired of wondering what if. It’s time for clarity.

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28 Lightning Fatalities To Date

Tonight I was introduced to the late Jesse Watlington, a Fort Myers, Fla. sixth-grader who succumbed to a lightning strike on Oct. 3, 2012 (Yes, lightning strikes year round). As the story goes, Watlington, one of the smallest players on his middle school football team, was the first to take to the field for football practice. Moments later, he was struck. His teammates, while they felt an electric surge, went unharmed.

Watlington is the 28th lightning fatality in 2012.

Image

Photo courtesy National Weather Service

A number that is way too high, which leaves me wondering – how can lightning safety education curriculums and lightning prevention systems become more prevalent throughout our nation?

It’s my belief that education juxtaposed with prevention systems will thwart mothers and fathers the heartache of planning funerals for their children, such as the Watlingtons and the Weisbrods did before them.

I hope to have a hand in making that happen – won’t you join me?

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6 Years; 6 Letters

With every anniversary of Lee’s death, I take the time to sit and write a letter to him. Since his death, six years ago today – there has been six letters. Each has been left at the cemetery…

 

July 22, 2012

Lee –

Some people don’t believe others change. I, on the other hand, am a firm believer that they do. Since you’ve been gone – 6 years – a lot around this world has changed, and I have changed (I’m not the type of person that wakes up early on a Sunday to hit the gym – a far cry from the girl who dreaded running ‘The Mile’ in gym class).

I often wonder: where you’d be; what you’d be doing; and how you would have changed from July 22, 2006 to now. The difficulty for me is that I’ll never know.

One thing I am most certain of – from the top of my head to the tips of my toes – is that you’d be by my side, for a friendship like ours never changes.

I love you; I miss you.

– Young Grasshopper

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Teen Leaps From Seaside Heights Chairlift

Melanie Rossomando of Springfield “freaked out” when her chairlift ride high above the Seaside Heights, N.J. beach stopped as a thunderstorm approached, so she jumped, according to coverage by News12 New Jersey.

Rossomando went on to say that she decided to jump rather than risk being hit by lightning as she celebrated her 17th birthday. A YouTube video shows scared Rossomando kicking off her shoes and jumping off the Sky Ride as dark clouds and heavy winds roll in.

…I’d be right there with you, Rossomando.

 

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National Lightning Awareness Week: June 24-30, 2012

As National Lightning Awareness Week (June 24-30, 2012) continues, A Flash of Light urges all property owners to take extra precautions. While Mother Nature may be unpredictable, there are ways to reduce the chances of lightning-related destruction.

One way, according to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), is to install a whole-house/building surge protector. Lightning protection systems are designed to protect a structure and provide a specified path to harness and safely ground the super-charged current of a lightning bolt; they will not protect against a direct strike. The system works by receiving the strike and routing it harmlessly into the ground.

Other recommendations from IBHS include:

  • Unplug electronic equipment.
  • Know the important difference between a surge suppressor and a power strip. A power strip plugs into your wall outlet and allows you to plug in multiple electronic devices. However, a power strip does not protect equipment from being damaged by a power spike. A surge protector also gives the user the ability to plug in multiple electronic devices, but it also serves another very important function in that it also protects your electronic devices from a power spike.
  • Connect telephone, cable/satellite TV and network lines to a surge suppressor.
  • Make sure the surge suppressor has an indicator light so you know it is working properly.
  • Ensure the surge suppressor has been tested.
  • Purchase a surge suppressor with a Joule rating of over 1,000. The Joule rating typically ranges from 200 up to several thousand – the higher the number the better.
  • Look for a surge suppressor with a clamping voltage rating (voltage at which the protector will conduct the electricity to ground) between 330 v, which is typical, to 400 v.
  • Purchase a surge suppressor with a response time less than 1 nanosecond.
  • Do not cut corners. You don’t want to protect a $1,000 television or computer system with a $10 surge protector, for $25 and up you can provide much better protection
  • Have a licensed electrician or home/building inspector review the power, telephone, electrical and cable/satellite TV connections to your office building/home.

For additional information, visit DisasterSafety.org/lightning.

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Sorry, The Indoor Pool Is Closed Due to Lightning

My “me time” often consists of either working out at the gym (addicted!) or reading fitness/health blogs. I consider Peanut Butter Fingers, The Fitnessista, Bess Be Fit, Sweet Tooth Sweet Life, Healthy Tipping Point and Squats and Squash my friends (just like in real life when I invite friends to a “party,” I’m sure I’m “forgetting” someone).

While reading Healthy Tipping Point blogger Caitlin Boyle‘s post “Thwarted,” I was surprised to read: And then we get there and – BAM! – the (indoor) pool is closed because of lightening (??).

And, that got me thinking about lightning and indoor aquatics safety…

The Facts:

(* These “facts” were found via “Lightning and Aquatics Safety: A Cautionary Perspective for Indoor Pools” and their noted references.)

“There is a built-in conflict between indoor pool activities and lightning safety. Both recreational swimming and competitive swimming events are based upon three icons of Entertainment, Health, and Pleasure. Lightning safety is founded on stopping all those forms of enjoyment,” according to President & CEO Richard Kithil of National Lightning Safety Institute.

Tom Griffiths and Matthew Griffith see the situation differently – “The truth is, the practice of clearing indoor pools during outside thunderstorms does not keep people safe and, in many cases, may put them in higher-risk situations.”

In their article, “When Lightning Strikes: Should you close your indoor pool when lightning approaches? The answer may surprise you,” Griffiths and Griffith outlines the higher-risk situations pool-goers experience when their indoor pool is closed due to a storm.

High Risk Situations Due to Indoor Pool Closures:

  • When an indoor pool is cleared, guests go to the locker rooms, where they shower before changing. There have been numerous cases of reported shocks and electrocutions of people in showers and bathtubs or at sinks washing their hands. Just standing near metallic plumbing systems and metallic drainage systems carries the possibility of shock (actual documented cases).
  • There are inevitably children who need to call for a ride home. Again, there are reports every year of people injured from being shocked while using landline telephones. (This is the mechanism most frequently used by lightning to enter a building.) Even if these practices are banned and monitored, people are still allowed to leave the facility.
  • In 98 percent (44 out of 45) of the fatalities attributed to lightning in the United States during 2007, the people were outside. When people leave the facility and run across the parking lot to their car, they are exposed to a direct strike. Car accidents increase as well during thunderstorms due to hazardous road conditions. It is clear that closing indoor pools actually puts people at higher risk of being injured by lightning than allowing them to keep swimming.

The bottom line: People come to an indoor swimming facility to have fun and exercise and it’s nearly impossible to eliminate all risk associated with pools without also eliminating the numerous benefits associated with them.

 

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