To The Dad Who Lost His Son At Disney — You Did Everything You Could

Photo: (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
disney gator attack tragedy

I can’t imagine what you’re going through right now.

I’ve been trying to imagine, all day, ever since I first read about the tragedy your family suffered, the tragic alligator attack at that Disney resort, and I just can’t. I can’t. No one can. Your family has been hurt in such a singular way that I don’t want to diminish what you’re going through by pretending that I can offer any advice about the painful road you’re currently traveling down.

There’s nothing I can say, or anyone can say, really, that will make this easier for your family.

All I can say is, from one father to another — You did everything you could.

You did. I know you did.

People like to believe that dads can fix everything. That we have herculean strength. That we’re all knowing and forever watchful.

But the thing is — dads are human. And, unfortunately, awful, unpredictable things happen to human beings every day.

I’ve been reading news accounts of what happened and they’re absolutely heartbreaking. About how your family was just relaxing on a vacation. About how your family was simply hanging out by the beach at the resort. And then the other details come in.

I read about how you fought the alligator, how you dove into the water to save your boy, how you injured your hands fighting with the eight-foot-beast. And I, regrettably, know how the story ends.

You did everything you could.

I keep saying that because, all too often, people lose all empathy when they talk about parents. They either expect parents to be perfectly perfect, keeping their children absolutely silent on long flights or trips to the grocery store, or they just sneer at everything you do and they JUDGE. They judge every single decision you make, because, somehow, they’re under the false impression that they could do it better.

That complete lack of armchair empathy was in full effect in the incident last month at the Cincinnati Zoo when a 3-year-old child slipped and fell into a gorilla enclosure, leading the death of one of the apes. Those awful people who love to criticize parents sprang out of the woodwork, screaming that the incident was the fault of the child’s mother and that the zoo shouldn’t have killed the animal, if only, to teach the child and his mother a lesson. It’s an easy thing to say when it’s not your kid.

For some reason, there is something broken in so many people that, when they read about a horrific incident like the one that happened to your family, they start loudly proclaiming how they would’ve done EVERYTHING different.

They would’ve fought harder. They would’ve known about the threat earlier. They never, ever would’ve let that happen on their watch.

As another dad, I’m here to tell you — those people are ignorant.

They literally don’t know what they’re talking about.

You did everything you could.

I get the appeal of their second-guessing. I would love to think that, if a wild animal attacked my daughter, that I’d be able to wrench open the creature’s mouth and tear it apart, limb from limb. But, deep down, I know that wouldn’t happen.

There is only so much a dad can do.

I want to believe that I could tear down brick walls with my hands for my child. I can’t.

I want to believe that I could chase down a car, leap tall buildings, or turn back time for my child. I can’t.

I want to believe that I can anticipate every possible outcome and, through the force of my will, keep my child safe from every possible harm. I can’t.

Reality is so much faster, meaner, relentless, and more confusing than anyone ever realizes. This attack that I’m reading about — I know it took seconds. I know it came out of nowhere. I know that NO PARENT could’ve been prepared for it.

I don’t expect that my words will give you any solace, but please just take them as an acknowledgement that, despite what ANYONE might say, parents — REAL PARENTS — know that you fought like a lion for your child and that you did everything a human being could in that situation.

The world can be cruel and random. I hope you are able to take some small solace in the loving embrace of your family. And I hope you know that dads all around the world have your back. We love you, we mourn for you… we ARE YOU.

You did everything you could and we are so very proud and so very heartbroken at your loss.

Take care.