Lessons Learned From Friday's Flash-Flood Tragedy
How do we respond to sudden deaths that make no sense?
On Friday a 45-year-old woman and her two children died after becoming trapped inside their car during flash floods that submerged more than a dozen vehicles in Pittsburgh's East End.
A day later, search crews found the body of a fourth flash-flood victim along the Allegheny River near the Highland Park Bridge, according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiners office.
Kimberly Griffith, of Plum, and her daughters, Brenna, 12, and Mikaela, 8, died inside their flooded vehicle along Washington Boulevard in Pittsburgh. Their car was completely submerged and pinned to a tree, according to news reports. Searchers on Saturday found the body of Mary Saflin, 72, of Oakmont, near Lock and Dam 2, downstream from the Highland Park Bridge, according to the medical examiners office.
As sad and as shocking as this incident has been, it has taught me a lesson.
Kimberly Griffith, who was driving down the street with her two daughters in tow, and Mary Saflin were hit by a natural disaster that was completely unexpected. Four lives were lost, and the lives of their friends and family were set in turmoil.
My heart goes out to the families of these women and children. After I heard about their deaths, the only thing I wanted to do was go home and look into my little girl's deep blue eyes.
When I finally got there, I pulled my 3-year-old onto my lap and just held her. I smelled her hair, and I kissed her cheek. I smiled as she watched her favorite television show and giggled. After taking in all the wonderment of this little girl I call Kailee, I thanked God for the precious gift of my child.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who did something similiar after learning of Friday's events.
An average day somehow turned into absolute heartbreak for two families. Who's to say the same type of calamity couldn't happen to my family tomorrow?
Or your family the next day?
We can't live our lives in fear of what may happen tomorrow, but we can certainly be conscious and appreciative of all we have today.
I'm the proud parent of a wild and crazy little girl who, quite honestly, brings me to the point of exhaustion each and every day. The days I spend saying “Kailee, no!” or chasing her down the aisles of Target after she says “Mommy, look how fast I can run!”—not to mention the time I spend cleaning up the messes she makes out of just about anything—are the best days of my life. My child fills my world with such love and joy that I don’t know if I could go on without her.
Unfortunately, not a day goes by that a parent somewhere suffers the absolute anguish of losing a child. It doesn't matter if these deaths occur while serving in war, from disease or in an accident—the pain is inconsolable.
So what are parents to do? Never let their children step out of the house? Forbid any activity that lets them out of our sight?
It’s a lovely thought, but quite impractical.
When I put Kailee on the swings at the park, or I pick her up and she wraps her skinny arms around my neck, I always say “Hold on tight and never let go!”
And I mean it—for both of us.
While I can't stop her from growing up and exploring this big world, I can teach her to be cautious and to follow her instincts. I want her to be brave and strong, but I also want to hold onto her forever.
If Friday's tragic events teach us anything, it's that tomorrow is not a given. Peaceful, happy lives may crumble in a flash.
It also helped me to see what I take for granted. My wild child’s carefree attitude wears me down, her temper can match that of any villain and her sweet and precious hugs are something I could never live without.
I hope this heartbreaking incident will teach us all to make the most of today. You never know what tomorrow might bring.
Editor's note: A former television reporter, Jamie Kunchick is a Cranberry-area mom with a column on Cranberry Patch. She works part-time in production for the WPXI news station.
See related stories on Plum-Oakmont Patch: Mother, Two Daughters from Plum Drown During Flash Flooding on Friday; Remembering the Local Victims of the Flash Flooding; Oakmont Woman Identified as Last Flood Victim; Plum Community Mourns the Loss of Mother, Daughters on Facebook; Memorial at Center Elementary Grows; Funeral Arrangements Set for Mary Saflin of Oakmont; Plum-Oakmont Communities Coping After a Tragedy; PatchCast: Flood Tragedy, New Stores & Mylan Classic Announcement; Services Held for Oakmont Flood Victim; Funeral Service for Flash Flood Victims Stresses Their Faith, Legacies; Local Authorities Look to Prevent Future Flooding.