A 2-year-old boy was mauled to death Sunday by a pack of Wild African Painted Dogs after police say he fell into a live animal exhibit at the Pittsburgh Zoo.
The boy’s mother had placed him on top of a railing at the edge of a viewing deck when he lost his balance and fell, according to the Associated Press.
On Monday, medical examiners reported that his death was caused by the dogs and not his fall. You can click here to read more.
News headlines about the tragedy caught my eye as I was signing in to check email.
My stomach wrenched as I read reader comments. I’d quote some of these grotesque comments but purposefully will not.
Minutes after the news reports were made people started questioning the mother’s sanity: Why would she put a child on the edge of a zoo exhibit railing? What was she thinking?
Some readers asked about her maternal instincts: Why didn’t she jump the rail and attempt to save her son’s life?
Some have assumed the mother is going to sue the zoo, while others argue she should face charges.
Assumptions – these are the cause of my outrage.
Not many details have been reported on what exactly took place, and the investigation is ongoing.
Yet, commentators are piecing together their versions of what happened and are judging this mother.
Let’s look at the facts. Here is what we do know:
· A two-year old child is dead.
· He was brutally attacked by wild dogs.
· Screams could be heard around the zoo (an account reported by a witness on ABC’s “Good Morning America” show.)
· This poor mother witnessed the horrific scene, helpless, and 14 feet above.
To the ruthless critics out for this mother’s head, it’s my turn to exercise free speech.
As parents we make good decisions and we make poor decisions. At this point, we don’t have details about why or what circumstances lead her to hoist her son up for a better view.
Would I have jumped in after my son? I like to say I would, but what if I had an infant strapped to me? For all we know, she had other small children with her.
Reports say the scene played out within minutes. Under extreme stress and tragedy, people can become paralyzed by shock. The bottom line: NO ONE can predict how their body would respond under these circumstances.
My heart aches for this mother.
I refuse to make assumptions about her. So, what if this had been me?
Simply imagining my 20-month-old son being torn apart by wild dogs gives me instant acid reflux, a pounding heartbeat and tear-swollen eyes. The self-loathing and guilt would be crippling. Nightmares would plague every night’s sleep and any scream would send all my senses back to that fateful moment. Every domestic dog that crossed my path would drudge up horrific memories of the day my son died.
I’m not certain I would ever recover.
Instead of persecution, show this mother some compassion and respectfully let her grieve her son.
Grieve with her. Call off the witch hunt!
Jessica Brashear is married with two children. Read her blogs here on momaha.
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