Fear and Loathing in Pittsburgh: The Online Mauling of a Parent Just Like You

Angry commenters rushed to persecute a woman whose son fell to his death at the Pittsburgh Zoo. If it’s true that horrific accidents could happen to any parent, why can’t we accept that?

 

Imagine it’s a crisp day in early November. The sun is shining, and you know there will be precious few Sundays left with nice weather before the cold sets in. There’s no question it’s a day to be outside.

You have a sweet little family— just you, your spouse, and your 2 year-old son. Maybe you call your parents or your siblings to see if they want to spend the day with you. In any case, you decide to go with your son and family to your city’s zoo.

You set off – it’s about a forty-minute drive from your house in a suburb just south of the city. When you arrive, your son excitedly pulls the grown-ups from exhibit to exhibit. Perhaps you’re the type of parent that holds your child’s hand constantly, never risking a moment with him out of your sight. Or else you’re one to let him wander 10 or 15 feet ahead – he’s getting bigger now and understanding more, and knows that when you yell ‘Red light!’ he’s GOT to stop. And he does, now, without fail – always turning and giving you a grin, too. Really, no matter your style, you’re no different than any of the other hundreds of families spending an otherwise average Sunday at the zoo.

On this day, though, these will be the details that will come to matter the least. To others, anyway. But to you, these moments will soon forever be known as “before.” Every day, for the rest of your life, you will wish you could rewind, relive these details, and change what is about to happen.

Every day, for the rest of your life, you will wish you could rewind, relive these details, and change what is about to happen.

Your family walks up to the next exhibit. It’s a gazebo overlooking a yard with African Painted Dogs – an endangered canine species that look remarkably like German Shepherds, except uglier and more feral. Nevertheless, your son is thrilled to see them; maybe he remembers them from last time you were here. He runs up to the railing and peeks through the bars, but you quickly realize there’s not much to see at his height – the plexiglass below the railing is dirty, and the top of it is a good foot over his head. He looks up at you, lifting his arms to be held. You bend down and scoop him up, as you have thousands of times before. Holding him now, you straighten back up to standing next to the railing. And as you do, all you register is a pulling sensation, then a feeling of sheer panic. In seconds, your son has left your arms and tumbled over the rail. Before you have a chance to react, the dogs are upon him, and your baby boy is being torn apart.

♦◊♦

On November 4th, 2012, news started to spread of what had just happened at the zoo within the hour. Not much was known at first, except a little boy had somehow fallen out of his mother’s arms and over the railing of the Painted Dog exhibit. He was attacked within seconds, and dead within minutes. People throughout Pittsburgh texted, Facebooked, and otherwise shared the news – shocked at what they’d heard, every trip to the zoo they’ve ever taken flashing through their minds. Those with children could hardly handle thinking of what happened. And many parents of toddler boys, on instinct, no doubt hugged them closely: because regardless of his charm, what little boy has never, albeit lovingly, been referred to as a wild little animal himself? Soon, we would have a name and an image to attach to the story: Maddox Derkosh, an adorable 2-year old with thick glasses and a sweet smile, had been killed at the zoo.

Faster than the facts – few though they were – could go around, though, came the rumors and vitriol, fueled primarily by thoughtless online chatter. The story went national by the next morning, international after another day. The Pittsburgh Zoo’s Facebook page had to be taken down intermittently to handle the deluge of cruel comments. Because ironically, much like the dogs followed their nature when they encountered something unfamiliar in their pen, people exhibited their own pack mentality as they descended upon Elizabeth Derkosh, Maddox’s mother. Endlessly, it seemed, they sought to reaffirm to one another that this could only have been due to her idiocy and neglect, with comments denigrating her invariably getting more support than the few attempting to call off these wild animals. Common themes emerged in their attacks.

Much like the dogs followed their nature when they encountered something unfamiliar in their pen, people exhibited their own pack mentality as they descended upon Elizabeth Derkosh, Maddox’s mother.

Many mourned the loss of common sense in our society, apparently throwing proper spelling and grammar to the wind in their grief:

“People need to take responsiblility for their own actions. Common sense and responsiblility is very hard to come accross these days” lamented one. (Perhaps not surprisingly, this appeared on the Facebook page of a particularly salacious local news station, known for its reporting on any story even vaguely scandalous in the tri-state area.)

Their cognitive dissonance allowing them to believe this mother was clearly partying on a yacht somewhere now that her child was dead, some spoke of Elizabeth Derkosh as though they had read news stories to which the rest of us somehow lacked access. Despite no public statements whatsoever from Mrs. Derkosh, one man, in response to a defense of the mother, somehow still knew “she wants to blame everyone but herself.” Another common sentiment – again, one with no evidence supporting it – was that the mother failed to go into the pit after her child. Because what parent wouldn’t go into a pit where her child was being eaten alive? One clever poster found a way to not only engage in speculation, but some blatant sexism, speculating that, since Mrs. Derkosh hadn’t gone in after Maddox, “her husband [must not have been] with her, or surely he would have.”

There were certainly demonstrations of compassion, but mostly those were, as the kids say, “IRL.” Money was collected to help the parents, and after a request by the family for toy trucks to be donated to charity in Maddox’s name, donations poured in. Online, though, few voices called for decency and common sense. Some pointed out that maybe, the mother had actually been held back from going in by bystanders. Some pointed to the fallibility of all parents:

How many people do things that can hurt a child everyday. How about that speed limit you didnt obey. How about letting your child ride on stroller without a seat beat [sic]. How about the time you let your child pet a dog you didn’t know.

While expressing sympathy for the mother’s plight, even these commenters were unable to refrain from pointing out it still was her fault.

But the majority continued their shameless virtual public stoning of this mother. Lacking understanding of the lightning-quick, chaotic nature of many crises, they seized upon a police officer’s remarks in the immediate aftermath that the child had been placed on the railing by the mother prior to falling. “Almost immediately after that he lost his balance, fell down off the railing into the actual pit and was immediately attacked by 11 dogs,” this officer was quoted as saying.

Though willing to speculate, even with a notable lack of information, on everything else about the situation – including the mother’s motivation, character, and intelligence – the public latched on to this statement for dear life. No variation of this version of events would be tolerated (even, we’ll see, when the District Attorney’s findings would ultimately not appear to support this). The Twitterverse, always up for a good lynching, weighed in expressing disgust. Like the child’s game of Telephone, the officer’s statement was elaborated upon and distorted, with witnesses’ statements tossed around like confetti (“I have seen comments elsewhere that she had been placing the child on various walls and barriers throughout the day and zoo staff had already asked her to stop,” one particularly persistent poster insisted).

Never one to disappoint the public’s need to rubberneck, the media actively enabled and participated in this speculation. One overseas news outlet painted a vivid picture for the reader with an article containing the subtitle that Maddox was “. . . mauled to death by African wild dogs after [his] mother dangles him over railings.”

Indeed, ABC News, for its “Good Morning America” report on the story, went so far as to create a “virtual reenactment” of the tragedy, depicting a child balanced precariously on a railing as his digital mother passively stands by, arms hanging by her sides. When additional details eventually came to light following the district attorney’s investigation, this depiction would prove to be so inaccurate that it could be said to represent an entirely different reality. . . perhaps a reality in which a mother who, by all accounts, was caring, attentive, and loving, would ever do such a thing. By comparison, it seems a small matter that the design of the railing in this video was glaringly different from that in the actual exhibit — pictures of which were readily available online even prior to the accident, had the videos’ producers cared to at least be accurate on this front.

Of course – and perhaps most critically – this account of the fall provided a convenient way for the public to rationalize why this was, in fact, something that could never happen to them. One man bragged:

I have been to this exhibit several times with my kids and they never fell in. hell we went behind the scenes and I had my 3 kids ( 7,5 and 2) 2 feet away from a fully grown lion and yet my kids are all perfectly fine. Y? Because I am a responsible parent that has a higher than 2nd grade education.

And predictably, many posters called for the mother’s prosecution, with some going so far as to label her “a murderer” and a few comparing her to Susan Smith or Casey Anthony. When a former zoo employee came forward to tell the media that he had seen many parents hold their children on this very same railing, only to have his concerns ignored by management, he came under attack as well. Some dismissed him for looking for his “15 minutes” or having a connection to the Derkosh family, while others criticized the news reporter for calling on this man as an “expert” (when the reporter, of course, never claimed any such thing). Finally, when Maddox’s maternal grandfather spoke out about the tragedy just a few days after Thanksgiving in a tearful interview with the local news about his family’s attempts to cope and their efforts to collect trucks in Maddox’s name, multiple commenters expressed disgust at the grandfather and noted how sick they were of the family “pushing this trucks stuff.”

♦◊♦

Nearly four weeks after the accident, Allegheny County’s District Attorney, Stephen Zappala, announced to the public the findings of his office’s investigation of Mrs. Derkosh. He explained that she would not face charges. They had concluded that it was, in fact, a freak accident – the child lunged out of his mom’s grasp as she picked him up to her height, standing at the railing, for him to see better.  In Zappala’s quotes released by the media, there was no indication that the child had been stood or otherwise placed on the railing. He noted that after it happened, the mother had tried to go in after her child, only to have onlookers hold her back. The child’s poor eyesight may have contributed both to his need for his mom to help him get a better view, and, some witnesses speculated, his brain’s perhaps fooling him into thinking there was plexiglass that would keep him safe just beyond the railing.

Such an expert determination did little to please those who had already convicted the mother in the court of public opinion. Many became armchair physicists, insisting that based on photos of the railing, or having seen it in person, that there was just no way this could have happened unless the mother was exceptionally careless. And “no one could have held me back,” another woman wrote in reply. Others continued to refer to her standing Maddox on the railing, as though it simply remained a given despite no apparent support.

This is not as Zappala described it:

The mom picks up the child, has the child by the waist; in almost one motion as the child is elevated. The child moves forward with both hands and his face; mom loses control of him.

And that’s the fear, isn’t it? That as a parent, you might someday, somehow, accidentally just lose control of the little being you love most in the world.

♦◊♦

Of course, what has been missing from this discourse is recognition of the fact that those seemingly quiet voices pleading for common sense and the understanding that this really could happen to anyone are actually, painfully right.

In his 2009 Pullitzer-Prize winning article “Fatal Distraction,” Gene Weingarten offers a critical look at the increasingly common phenomenon of children dying after being inadvertently left by their parents in overheated cars. The parallels of the tragedies discussed in this article and the public’s subsequent response to the zoo tragedy are chilling.

Psychologists have found that there doesn’t appear to be a correlation between the prior parenting skills, or lack thereof, exhibited by a parent and whether he or she might somehow make this tragic mistake.

Weingarten makes the highly convincing case that such accidents can, and do, happen to anyone – even the most conscientious, caring, and intelligent parents. Indeed, psychologists have found that there doesn’t appear to be a correlation between the prior parenting skills, or lack thereof, exhibited by a parent and whether he or she might somehow make this tragic mistake. So answering the question he knows so many critics ask –“Who forgets a baby?” he writes:

The wealthy do, it turns out. And the poor, and the middle class. Parents of all ages and ethnicities do it. Mothers are just as likely to do it as fathers. It happens to the chronically absent-minded and to the fanatically organized, to the college-educated and to the marginally literate. In the last 10 years, it has happened to a dentist. A postal clerk. A social worker. A police officer. An accountant. A soldier. A paralegal. An electrician. A Protestant clergyman. A rabbinical student. A nurse. A construction worker. An assistant principal. It happened to a mental health counselor, a college professor and a pizza chef. It happened to a pediatrician. It happened to a rocket scientist.

Yet, lacking any understanding or acceptance of this, the public inevitably reacts by vilifying the parent.

Discussing one particularly heart wrenching case – if one could really be described as any more painful than the others – in which a man lost his adopted baby boy this way, he quotes typical online commenters:

“This is a case of pure evil negligence of the worse kind . . . He deserves the death sentence.”

“I wonder if this was his way of telling his wife that he didn’t really want a kid.”

“He was too busy chasing after real estate commissions [to remember the child]. This shows how morally corrupt people in real estate-related professions are.”

♦◊♦

If it’s true that this can happen to anyone, though, why can’t most of us seem to accept that?

Because, quite simply, it’s easier not to. It’s the path of least resistance. Every day, otherwise loving parents thoughtlessly risk their child’s safety. In the case of children left in overheated cars, psychologists contribute it to primitive processes in our brains failing us as we manage the more complicated tasks of daily life.

But maybe hearing this, you still don’t think it applies to you. You could never be so thoughtless. But have you ever forgotten to lock your front door at night? Left out a bottle of household cleaner? Failed to turn the pot handle toward the back of the stove?

And is it really possible you’ve never held your child high up to see over a railing, either?

Have you ever forgotten to lock your front door at night? Left out a bottle of household cleaner? Failed to turn the pot handle toward the back of the stove?

Yet much like the outpouring of support for the Pittsburgh Zoo, and cries of anger at any suggestion that common sense might dictate a modification of the Painted Dog exhibit, in the early 2000s, the public failed to embrace a simple keychain device that could help parents avoid accidents like those discussed in Gene Weingarten’s article. Because frankly, a device to help you not forget your kid in the car… who needs one of those?! It’s just so unsexy. So even in those situations where we could take steps to help prevent thoughtless errors with tragic potential consequences, our refusal to recognize the fallibility of human nature prevents this.

Weingarten quotes a clinical psychologist on that very point:

We are vulnerable, but we don’t want to be reminded of that. We want to believe that the world is understandable and controllable and unthreatening, that if we follow the rules, we’ll be okay. So, when this kind of thing happens to other people, we need to put them in a different category from us. We don’t want to resemble them, and the fact that we might is too terrifying to deal with.  As such, they have to be monsters.

♦◊♦

This piece is unlikely to be immune from the disdain of Mrs. Derkosh’s critics, either. And assuming it’s not, watch closely how they frame their arguments. Do they insist it’s a matter of “common sense,” despite evidence to the contrary laid out here? Note how their fear will be disguised as anger, their insecurities hidden behind an insistence that their parenting is too cautious for this to ever happen to them.

And then remember that you have a choice. You can join them, or you can stop and remind yourself “there but for the Grace of God . . .” and go forward with your life.

 

Photo–Flickr/Yvonne in Willowick

About Bethany Bateman

Bethany Bateman is a licensed social worker with many years experience working with parents, families, and children in the Pittsburgh area. Her professional areas of interest are child development and mood disorders in adolescents and young adults. Currently working in academia, she lives with her husband in Fort Worth, TX. First and foremost, though, she will always be a Pittsburgher.

Comments

  1. A tragic piece which shows the worst of humans over and over. Maybe it’s the Stereotypes that need mauling and not the parents?

    I do wonder though as some aspects of mauling that this piece identifies unwittingly? I’ve seen the patterns of idol speculation and gap filling – including vitriol – time and time again. The account here seems to indicate that only men are involved in such activity. When it comes to comment the only time that gender seems relevant to being mentioned is when it’s a man doing it – and then a whole load of other comments follow on indicating falsely that they are all made by either this man or other men.

    It is fascinating, give my long-standing interest in language, psychology and how language is used and what is says – both litterally and also about the person using it – just how such things as Cognitive Dissonance are raised, the mourned for loss of common sense and just how unthinking people can be – and yet some tend to miss just how those same issues are on display when they talk about sex/gender or reference on it.

    I have to say that from personal observation of matters on the Public Internet since 1992 – women do – you know – gossip – fill in blanks – idolly speculate – even gent nasty and vitriolic and and sometimes are the worst offenders. I know it’s anecdotal, but It’s clear enough to me as a most reasonable – and give me the evidence type – to have the hackles on the back of my neck twitching – heavily.

    In fact – in this case it’s very easy to find none male crass comment that is offensive, insensitive and not as human as one would hope. I do hope that Disabling and Disparaging Stereotypes are not being pushed about again and that mauling becomes and equality possibility and not simply gendered and polarised!

    • I didn’t get anything from this article to suggest that “only men do this”. Actually, from experience reading comments on news sites about similar stories, when there is an injury or death of a child, many of the most vitriolic comments about the other are from women.

  2. John Anderson says:

    This one is hard. I’ve carried children before and had one niece love to lean back until she was horizontal. It was hard to keep her from falling with one arm though I would consider myself of above average strength in my hands and arms. I could easily see how a woman would be unable to prevent her child from falling.

    On the other hand, I’ve never seen anyone pick a child up by the waist one handed. I’ve scooped a nephew up that way once, but I’m strong enough to do it and it still only happened once. I carried him around like a football because he wouldn’t stop misbehaving. He was around 4 at the time. He just thought it was fun and wanted me to continue even after I put him down.

    If she picked him up by the waist instead of by supporting his butt, she must have done so 2 handed and it becomes difficult to understand how she could have lost control.

    “The mom picks up the child, has the child by the waist; in almost one motion as the child is elevated. The child moves forward with both hands and his face; mom loses control of him.”

    It’s possible they didn’t prosecute because they felt that she suffered enough, but without clear cit evidence to the contrary, we have to go with what the investigators said and that is that it is a tragic accident.

    • Considering I pick up my 15 month old, one-armed, by the waist, every single day, it is perfectly possible.

      I generally bend down, scoop her up around the waist with my right arm and pick her up. I then do a little jiggle/jump to adjust her onto my hip.

  3. Bethany Bateman says:

    Thanks for your comments.

    Media Hound — I want to reply to your comment and hope I understand what you are saying correctly. in researching this story, which involved looking through a pretty painful number of nasty comments, there didn’t seem to be a ‘type’ of person most likely to comment on this story. Men, women, those who identified themselves as having kids or not having kids, people who felt a need to point out their own race to validate their comments, etc etc, weighed in. It ranged from people who I’m guessing are the chronically curmudgeonly online commentariat to people who remarked they’d never had the urge to comment on an online story before. The person who made the comment about a father being more likely to go in was, if I remember correctly, female.

    There was a lot I could’ve looked at in this story — a number of my friends have brought up their disgust with the ‘Mommy blaming’ going on in this story, as well as the case with the woman whose children were killed by their nanny in NYC. But I thought that given this medium, specifically looking at the nastiness online, and what seems likely to be behind it, would resonate most with readers.

    I wanted the article to be watertight, and not contribute to the rumor mill by just vaguely referring to online comments – I wanted concrete examples to use – so I took a few hours when writing it to go through comments both national and local websites – blogs, new stations, newspapers, etc, to try to find the most useful comments for my purpose. It became clear within a few minutes of doing this that there were shockingly easy to break down – every single one, without fail, fit into one of about 10 categories. There were themes in the comments that were so bizarre I wasn’t even going to touch them with a ten-foot pole – for example, when it was announced that the USDA would investigate the zoo, many, MANY people brought up ‘big government’ and did a nice amount of liberal bashing in the process. So I recognize there are many more themes in this situation that warrant conversation.

    The themes I discussed, and the angle with which I chose to look at it, though, is one that I hope will resonate with readers, and also be comforting to others who have been similarly troubled by the nastiness directed at this mom. Because I know there are many of us out there.

    • Bethany, thank you for this comment. I could not agree more. I also want to say that this is one of the most beautifully written, brilliantly analyzed, and painfully real posts I have ever read on GMP. I am a blogger too and not easily impressed. Congratulations. This post changed me. I think about all the near misses–my daughter’s momentary darting out into the street with no car being there, the time I lost her in a department store for 15 minutes right around the time those 12-year-old boys in England took a little boy by the hand and walked him out of a store away from his mother and murdered him, the times I spotted my mountain goat daughter WAY high in a tree or up a cliff. To have anything but the deepest empathy for the unlucky parents–because luck is what it’s all about in cases like this one–is barbaric. Where is the empathy? Where is the humanity? This online mauling happens every day. It has no gender, no race, no ethnicity to it, and it is reprehensible. My heart aches for these parents. The ache is what it’s about.

      • Bethany Bateman says:

        Wow, Lori — thank you so much. I honestly don’t think I could imagine more kind or gratifying praise. I really appreciate it.

        re: your experiences. I think that I’m in a position where I could write this because, though I’ve worked with kids/families, have 3 nieces and a nephew that are basically the collective light of my life, and have served as a secondary (and, for short periods — weekends and such — primary) caregiver for more kids than I can count — I’m not a parent yet. So I’ve had heart-stopping experiences with children I care immensely about — despite being a conscientious, loving, and (I’d like to think!) intelligent person.

        But at the same time, I know can’t even begin to understand yet what it feels like to be a parent, and I’m sure I won’t until I have my own kids. So I don’t begrudge anyone whatsoever not wanting to think about this, or not wanting to believe it would happen to them. And thankfully, nothing like this will ever happen to probably 99.9% of parents. Most kids, thankfully, make it to adulthood nowadays!! The man I quoted as talking about his children being a few feet from a lion is a pretty good example of that. I genuinely don’t understand how it seemingly didn’t cross his mind that, um, that lion could’ve attacked one of his kids. Does it make him a bad parent that he took his kids behind the scenes at the zoo for what I’m sure was a super-fun experience for them? No, not at all. But you’re right — mostly, it’s about luck. Because if something had gone wrong, I can pretty much guarantee he would’ve made the news (and people would be doing the same thing to him, despite his having ‘higher than a 2nd grade education’).

        My belief though is that, while it’s mostly luck — heart-stopping moments may sometimes even be indicative that parents are doing their jobs. I think it’s safe to call it a fact, based on the research, that helicopter parenting results in children who are insecure and dependent. In short, it’s just not good for them. For kids to grow up to be happy, healthy, independent people, they have to *learn* to be independent, and to manage their own safety eventually. And the nature of learning something is that, well, you don’t know it to begin with. So you have to give little kids increasing amounts of independence, sometimes before they are 100% ready for it, or before you can completely, without doubt know how they will react. I encountered a perfect example of this recently — after Thanksgiving dinner, my family and I took a walk around the neighborhood. My 2.5 year old nephew ran ahead down the sidewalk, and for a split second I thought he was going to keep going until he got to the street corner about 20 feet in front of him. My brother-in-law, though, yelled ‘RED LIGHT!’ — and my nephew immediately stopped, turned around, gave us a big grin, and waited for us to catch up. When I showed this article to a friend without much experience w/ kids, he argued that that part of my piece was superfluous. And I told him there was no way I was taking it out, because every single parent knows how that feels.

        So at the end of the day, I do not begrudge any parent for a second for not wanting to think about this stuff – at last not as much as this story has been covered in local Pgh news. And even if they never do, thankfully, the odds are, their kids will be fine. And also, I know I may understand more how they feel when I am a parent. But I will never, ever subject another person’s character or tragedy to the bashing they have.

      • I was a firebug as a kid, I’m surprised I lived. We use to walk through stormwater drains, had a friend stand on glass n slice his foot open. We’d walk 1km away from home to the sugar mill and play around there, walking on train tracks and a train bridge and along sugar farms that have plenty of the top 3 most dangerous snakes (Taipans in particular are aggressive). We’d play with metho lighting stuff on fire, rode on motorbikes n drove cars at 10. Plenty of opportunities to be bitten, ran over, fallen into ditches, plenty of opportunities to die.

        Lots of parents probably do the same thing that woman did at the zoo but as chance has it this time the child fell. Those animals seeing meat drop into their cage probably though it was food, or they knew it was another living being invading their territory. Why the fuck do zoo’s have meat eatign predators in such an easily accessible area? We have crocdile farms here where the crocs have killed, maimed human trainers before. I have a photo of me standing in front of an open gate about 2meters from a large crocodile (well within strike distance) with the trainer on his back patting the croc with a rake. I could have easily been taken, that same croc grabbed another trainers arm, deathrolled n pulled it off. I was like 8 at the time…no way I’d stand a chance to a 3-4m croc.

        • John Anderson says:

          We dressed up as ninjas, climbed onto the roof of a garage, and kick boxed because we thought it would look cool. I’m surprised someone didn’t break his neck or some other bone. I also remember living in a 3 flat apartment when my cat jumped out the window onto the neighbors roof. We set up a 6′ ladder as a bridge and scooted over to get him. We used to surf on the roofs of cars and one guy actually fell off. Then there were the bottle rocket fights. Once one of the guys released pepper spray into our closed room. That’s just what I remember off the top of my head.

          That doesn’t even count the myriad number of fights we got in. I don’t know if it’s still there, but I had this scar across my back for being just a little too slow when someone had a knife. I had completely forgotten about it until mom started freaking out when I had my shirt off and my back was to her.

          Well like the saying goes God watches over children and fools.

          • Yeah and I feel real sorry for the person who gets badly hurt the first time they try something, whilst we defy logic n risk.

    • Bettany – when people read they read in three different ways:

      1) Scanning – they literally jump key word to key word,
      2) Reading for content – they read the combination of words to see how they communicate one to the other and to the person reading,
      3) Reading for meaning – that is comprehension, context, meaning, how metaphors are used – even punctuation and how it alters meaning. It also reveals what are called arcs of communication and underlying assumptions, intentions and the basic foundations of the communication.

      There are three very different modes of reading and the issue is that numbers 1 and 2 are the most common. 3 is used to communicate deep ideas, but it also causes issues because often people have little idea of what they are communicating at all. When people write they will in fact read back to themselves what has been written – but they only use scanning and looking for meaning. They don’t sit back and consider the deeper structures – they are convinced their foundations are well laid out – to plan and 100% solid.

      I have read your piece – and I grasp the under lying and deep issues of how humans behave. I’ve been dealing with Psychology, Media and Language/Linguistics since I was at high school. That was so long ago we all wore short trousers and Charles Dickens was still in nappies/diapers. I’m seen as Pernickety and Crotchety round here because I do focus very carefully on what people say – write – communicate – and how so much can get embedded in so few words – and people then demand it’s reality, when it’s just some bits of an alphabet held up with a scaffolding of prejudice and ignorance. It can be impressively high and mighty, and yet fall over ever so easily.

      Your piece uses gender and gendered words repeatedly. You keep using the word mother – in fact editorially I would say it is excessive – 17/19 times on the page 20 with tag. If you had a hammer….?

      It’s a word that people doing a 1)Scanning would see repeatedly and as such they receive the view that the piece is all about mothers – it’s focused on mothers and it’s for Guess Who? Mothers! – Odd? Not at all. You thought the root was human conduct – but it gets lost due to a combination of how people read and excessive repetition of a single word and language motif.

      When gender is mentioned or implied the female is always positive as in mother and her feelings in the context of what happened. When the male is mentioned it is either neutral but linked to follow on disaster or allowed to cascade negatively across words, phrases and multiple sentences. If you had the mother being cold hard and uncaring it would be different – here there is a glow around the feminine. One of the biggest gender Road blocks comes from this line:

      “Derkosh, one man, in response to a defense of the mother, somehow still knew “she wants to blame everyone but herself.” Another common sentiment – again, one with no evidence supporting it – was that the mother failed to go into the pit after her child. Because what parent wouldn’t go into a pit where her child was being eaten alive? One clever poster found a way to not only engage in speculation, but some blatant sexism, speculating that, since Mrs. Derkosh hadn’t gone in after Maddox, “her husband [must not have been] with her, or surely he would have.” Link

      It uses man and mother in combination making the male negative against the positive mother/female – and then there are a whole list of events listed which stay in the same frame – making them all by men and against the glowing Madonna figure. The male is farmed as negative and that perception is left to cascade across multiple events by multiple individuals. I wonder If I sourced each one would I actually find a gender mix or a polarity?

      You can argue that’s not your intent, but it’s the reader experience that counts. You frame a whole sequence of nasties as starting with a male against the mother and you allow the implied gender to just cascade down the list – it’s a waterfall of nasty men against the saintly mother. It may not have been your intention to portray men as negative, but readers see it differently and your intention becomes negative to men. Writers get how people read and write for the reader.

      You will receive feedback from people who are triggered into certain mind states by your use of language – and I have no doubt that many of your applauders will me Female – Mothers. That is the audience your writing is for, just as at a jazz concert jazz fans are the ones who are attracted stay and applaud at the end.

      I have been unfamiliar with this news story from Pittsburgh – but I can guess with a rather high degree of shrewdness that many people in the USA who are net connected in any way – who have a radio – a TV – read any form of print media – they will all have heard the story already and have made up their minds as to how people have been getting treated. That makes the story preaching to the converted – and the converts all huddle in their own churches – the church of the negligent mother – the church of all dogs should be shot – the church of The net is a Cruel and inhuman place filled with anger and hate and nasty things, and we are the Antichrist so where can we suck blood today?.

      You set out to provide a fresh view and yet from the title to the sub title it’s preaching your church’s gospel, like a road side sign that gets driven past quick and mocked. Fear and Loathing in Pittsburgh – well the movie is Las Vegas so being unoriginal turns many off. The title indicates a piece about oddball journalist and psychopathic lawyer? Pittsburgh is not really the sort of place people want to read about – I’m not even in the USA but I know Pittsburgh is a byword for rust, trouble and decay. There is so much more that turns people away and programs them to receive language – and if you take Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas + Pittsburgh Rust belt – Zoo + Mother and then scan the article pick up that men are all bad and portrayed negatively… sorry but exactly why would people be reading and think or perceive it’s worth reading.

      I would have looked at the supposed central issues and venues – Internet – Zoo – the world in general and used a title such as “A Day At the Zoo – Your(sic) Welcome To the Internet.” (I do like puns they do make people think) … and given how you make comment about how spelling and punctuation go out the window it roots the title in people’s conduct and behaviour on line.

      A sub heading “At the zoo in Pittsburgh a child was mauled to death by wild dogs. What is the nature of the people mauling others on the net?”

      It is gender neutral – makes location universal – Puittsburgh is just in passing – people’s conduct and motivation – nature is the focus.

      Of course it would have been useful if there was a compare and contrast across multiple events, and it was made a wider subject which even showed that it’s not a sex/gender issue – race issue – sexuality issue – just a boring common a garden human issue.

      If you wish to make my views a just bashing you are free to do so, but I am known to be pernickety over words chosen, how they communicate one with another and off the page, and I also rail against how stupid people are when it comes to prejudices – their internal puppet theatre of stereotypes – and also how sexism is not just a set of words it’s a state of mind and ultimately a state of being.

      The same goes for all prejudices, and as a crippled gay male of a certain age with ethnic diversity issues to die for – well I may just have one hell of a laboratory to study them all in – it’s called life. ( I always joke that if I could get an orphan to adopt, I would not just have a five card trick but an ace high royal flush.)

      I have what some see as a terrible habit of spotting tropes and bias – and even poaching it lightly and serving with bacon and hollandaise for breakfast, a sort of Trope Benedict. Others see me as a Benedict Arnold because I’m equally happy with a poached gender trope from any hen or rooster P^).

      I do dislike small mindedness and crass laziness where tropes and stereotypes are concerned – such as promoting the idea that young guys getting naked and flogging images of their asses is progressive or positive – just because they are doing it for charity. It’s all been done so many times since the ladies of Rylston whipping of their bras and had every one joining the W.I. – and the sofa turned into a whole hospital wing to fight cancer.

      As I made clear on the issues of calendars and bums – there are better and bigger options – it’s just that some don’t get them and I don’t believe that applauding mediocrity is the way to go, no matter how well intentioned. The Road To Hell Is Paved With…… ? Even the ancient Greeks knew the answer.

      I wonder if you actually considered the audience you are writing for?

      It is clear that your piece is filled with good intention and raises most serious and pertinent points about human behaviour – but you did make a massive and quite serious error at the end in assuming any criticism would stem from how nasty people can be as opposed to how perceptive people can be. Perceptive people would agree with you 100%? That is a pretty massive assumption and bias.

      That was a defensive move that simply would not have been necessary, if the focus had been upon communication alone and the audience receiving the message you wished to communicate, and not censured control of readers who may disagree with what you write. I agree with some 95% of your sentiments and communicated ideas, but the 5% is a real spoiler.

      You see – writing and embedding stereotypes and bias does not just get picked up when people scan – and it does not always show up when they read for meaning – but when you stand back and look at how words are used to stitch ideas together into a great quilt, and you see how each patch is held one against the other – it is fascinating to look at….. and where stereotypes have been used rather than solid fabric you can see there the light goes straight through and leaves a shadow on the ground with a big sigh of resignation written out for all to see. No matter what some do when they quilt and embroider with words their biases end up spelt out in very large letters – even with the letters written back to front.

      There is an ancient Chinese proverb which says “If you want to see clearly, look at the shadow”. Colours, fabrics and even fancy stitching can be ever so beguiling – but the shadow shows the holes and true shape and it’s so much clearer.

      You should also consider that I am concerned not just with your piece but many pieces which show similar traits and the Proliferation of them. Just as an individual piece can unwittingly display and reveal motivations, biases and even conditioning from the writer, the wider issues across multiple threads reveal deeper and more troubling issues and decisions being made. It’s a pity that a project ends up against the buffers because the projected demographic is the wrong one – being at cross purposes with oneself is not a productive place to be. In media when you have that dynamic, readers will be anywhere else.

      • Bethany Bateman says:

        Hi again Media Hound —

        Thanks for commenting again. To be honest, this is the first thing I’ve ever written that’s ever been published anywhere (online or in print). My work requires a lot of documenting and narrative-writing, so that keeps any writing skills I gained in college somewhat fresh, but again, this is the first time I’ve written anything for any sort of audience, pretty much ever. I had two intentions in writing this piece: 1) to try to constructively deal with the frustration I’ve felt with this backlash… my frustration ran pretty deep, for reasons I’ve done a bit of soul searching on that I hope makes me at least a bit of a better person; and 2) with the hopes of it reaching people who have either been similarly troubled by the backlash or who have participated in it (forgive me — I guess that might be 3 purposes!). To that end, I feel less annoyed about how things have gone after having gotten so much support about the piece from people who’ve said it’s been cathartic to read as they have also been troubled by it, and I’ve gotten feedback from at least one person (who comments below) expressing some regret for not having been more compassionate, and we actually had a pretty darn civil conversation about it yesterday. To that extent, I really am glad that I was able to accomplish what I set out to do. It’s been very gratifying.

        Beyond that — I don’t have much intention of writing anything else at the very moment, but I certainly appreciate your feedback on what I said here. I studied linguistics in college and did a lot of work in gender studies, so any biases I made WRT gender, perhaps I should know better and can certainly try to check myself next time on some of the things you’ve mentioned.

        Thanks again for your feedback —

        Bethany

        • Your writing is wonderful, and your self-control is even more amazing. Don’t know how you do it. In my circles, your article made the rounds to much fanfare. Your first published piece? Kudos. And welcome to the world of online criticism, aka mauling. Ironic, isn’t it? Unfortunately it’s the status quo on the internet.

        • “Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.”
          ― Eleanor Roosevelt

      • Let me keep this brief so that you won’t need to resort to any of the powerful arcane interpretive devices you pulled out in the above comment: contrary to what you seem to believe, you are very bad at reading things.

  4. I wrote a long that was eaten by the blog. The blog just automatically refreshed before I had time to press Post Comment, basically erasing all of it.

    My point is regarding forgetting children in cars. I’m not going to write this out as elaborately as I did.

    Think of yourself going to an ATM to withdraw money.

    Insert card -> Punch code -> Get money -> Get card

    That seems like a reasonable timeline, doesn’t it?

    Or wait no not at all. There’s a problem with that and that’s exactly why ATMs do NOT work like I just said they do! I’ll explain why:

    The goal of the activity, that is “withdrawing money from an ATM, is to get the money, not to primarily get the card, but the machine gives you the money BEFORE you get the card? Guess why ATMs do not work like this? Because a whole crapload of people forget their cards in the ATMs. Why? Because they didn’t go to the ATM to get their card back. They were “done” with the task when they got their money. The card didn’t figure into the closure of the task.

    You can basically imagine what happens if you involve a baby in a car and the delivering of that baby to some home somewhere. If there are other tasks involved then it’s easy to forget the baby if the baby is left anywhere, because it is not part of that subtask but rather part of a larger task.

  5. Richard Aubrey says:

    I have a granddaughter, thirteen months, 97th percentile in length and weight. Her jock mom–my DIL–said that when girl was about four months old that she was astoundingly strong and fast. Indeed, you can’t hold her like a normal baby because she’ll be gone before you can move. She was climbing before she was walking, due to strength in her upper body, which meant she could get into trouble in a play space between one breath and the next.
    You have to have a sense of balance and leverage. Some people–probably more likely athletes–have a kinetic sense of what is stable and what could go wrong. Even so, with this kid you have to be on the ball more than any other kid I’ve dealt with, including my own.

    One reason, said a cop many years ago, that people look down on victims is that they want to distance themselves from the circumstance to assure themselves it wouldn’t happen to them.

    IMO, it comes down to situational awareness, whether it’s kids in the back seat or not having full control when you’re holding a kid, or for any other hazard. Some people are naturally better at situational awareness and others, with the same IQ, could get run over by the marching band and, sitting amongst the tubas and bass drums, ask, “What the hell happened?” Whether it’s a kid left in the car, or anything else, they clearly, obviously, honestly, and entirely DO NOT KNOW for that moment what is going on besides what is immediately in front of them.

    For me, a two year old needs to be in a strait jacket anywhere near any kind of hazard. Speaking figuratively.

    • Angela Rose says:

      I think your post is excellent !

    • John Anderson says:

      I think some of it has to do with things being routine. I’m a lot more vigilant than my sister or brother when watching my nieces and nephews than they are. It’s because I don’t do it everyday and I’m sure it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting for me and I only need to watch them for a day or two at most.

  6. Angela Rose says:

    My heart aches for this poor mommy and daddy. They will mourn little Maddox for the rest of their lives. I think it was a terrible accident. I think the baby couldn’t see and she was trying to give him a better view. Dear God, it was horrible. She can probably hear the screams every hour of every day. The thoughts of what those dogs were doing to that baby. My heart aches for what the baby endured when he fell and was attacked, what the mom endured when she knew he was gone and how you would give your heart and soul to get that time back…… I pray for those people. They are living a hell that we can’t fully understand. Christmas is coming and I think of them when I see lights and trees and toys. What do they do everyday? They see his toys, his toothbrush, his clothes, if they haven’t been removed. Please, Little Maddox, pray for Mommy and Daddy. We know you are with Jesus and you are playing with so many of the angels. May God bless the family. May he calm their souls and soothe their bleeding hearts. Please know there are many of us out here who are praying and not judging you. We know it was a terrible accident. Please call on Jesus as he knows the pain of loss and of being wrongly judged. God bless you.

  7. This is so beautifully written. Thank you for be willing to write it. I knew the moment my husband told me of this tragedy the mother would be vilified, particularly online. I am currently writing a book about the ways moms treat one another online, and have had to read through countless comments like the ones you reference and viewed in your research. There has been a fundamental breakdown of civility in our society. I daresay of humanity itself. Nowhere can that be more plainly seen than on the internet. It hurts my heart.

    • Amen! I agree Elizabeth, had a friend that just lost her two year old in a tragic parking lot accident around this same time and I was shocked, horrified and felt physically ill at the way that people were quick to say thngs to her regarding the accident being “her fault.” It was like people needed it to be her faut because otherwise it is just a senseless accident that could happen to anyone and that makes people uncomfortable. We want everything to be preventable and it sucks that sometimes it just isnt’. Accidents happen and sometimes they are awful. What is not an accident is the way people treat each other afterwards. If we all just took a spoonfull of compassion before we spoke, everyone’s lives would be better for it and we wouldn’t be heaping insult on injury for already grief-struck mothers.

  8. Jenny Lynch says:

    Author! Author! I agree with the point about even the compassionate qualifying their sympathy with a ‘but I would never…’. This is nonsense. I sensed that even the public’s vitriol was a sort of coping mechanism. I know that this terrible, heart wrenching occurence has made me lose innocence I didn’t know I still had but I stand fully in support of the mother, Elizabeth Derkosh. I will cry tears for her and pray to God on her behalf for as long as I am able. In defense of this poor, afflicted woman, I too quoted- there but for the Grace of God go I. Make no mistake, God is in this and He is on the move!

  9. Any parent knows that this sort of tragedy can happen to anyone. I pray every day that my son will outlive me and can’t imagine the pain of the mother in this piece. Irresponsible? Irresponsible is sending a child to spend a week with the uncle that molested you when you were young and thinking it won’t happen again. Or letting a 10-yo play with a gun. This thing? This thing is why I’m never quite free of anxiety. Every parent knows what I mean.

  10. I had my child ‘jump’ out of my arms. It was a new-born’s “startle reflex”.

    There is the old saying that babies and drunks can fall without getting hurt. Yet, I retain a very sickening memory of my child landing on the concrete at my feet.

  11. John Smith says:

    This reminds me of what happened to our own Prime Minister in the UK. About a year ago a story came out that one of his children was left in a pub where they went for lunch, each parent thinking the other had that one of there 4 children. Nither they nor the security and political escorts they no doubt had at the time realized what had happened for about 20 minuets. The child was returned safe and sound, yet there was an outcry of “how could they” and “I would never do that”. Unfortunately everyone likes to think they are perfect and would never do such a thing, until it happens.

    If even our PM and the Met Police couldn’t keep track of four children all the time surely we need to start to forgive those of us without this support and accept that mistakes happen. Personally I dread the day when this happens, and I’m sure it will. All we can do is hope that we are the luck ones where no harm comes to our children when we are the ones making the mistake.

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      This can happen when more than one person is involved and casually thinks the other party(ies) have taken care of it.
      It’s different when there’s only one person.

      Some years ago, a mother left her kid in the car while she ran into a convenience store. She meant to, it wouldn’t be long. But the motor was running and a guy stole it, tried to throw the kid out but dragged him down the road. Other motorists stopped him–didn’t kill him, surprisingly–and covered the kid with a blanket.
      It’s a law of physics–not a particularly sympathetic field–that if mom had not left the kid in the car, he wouldn’t have been killed. And you shouldn’t leave a kid in a car.

      • John Smith says:

        I’m sorry, but your wrong. First, even a parant on there own makes mistakes, takes there eye off there child, etc. Secondly, the in the case your talking about that happening is not proof that leaving the child in the car was the wrong thing to do. I don’t have children of my own, but knowing how much hassle it can be getting them in and out of cars I can completly understand that, and the theft of the car is unrelated to the child beeing there. Equaly there could have been an armed robbery and the child saved by not being taken in to the store. The death of the child was only coincidentaly related to the actions of the mother. There was no causal reationship. Yes, if she had taken him he would have been fine, but something else could have happend. I don’t see leaving a child in a car for a short time as being wrong at all.

        • Richard Aubrey says:

          John Smith. All that you say is true…repeated ten times. Hm. Kid’s still dead. Now what?
          Never, ever leave a kid in a car. Never leave a car with the engine running. Putting both together is stupid as hell.
          Too much hassle? We had twins. Didn’t do that. Ever.

          • Bethany Bateman says:

            I think this is an excellent example of a situation where one’s own experiences or frames of reference will inform what they think is the right thing to do in a situation like this.

            Depending on the situation, I can definitely understand a parent being just as uneasy taking a child into a gas station store (particularly if it’s late at night,in a dangerous neighborhood, etc) as they would be leaving them alone in a locked car, with the car within view, obviously. Unless the parent checks the statistics first — ‘how much more often is a car theft likely to occur in this neighborhood than an armed robbery of a business?’ — probably either way could be reasonably justified in the person’s mind.

            That’s why I’d urge you to bring the argument back to this idea of why people can feel such an intense need to judge one another’s parenting, particularly where there’s a tragic accident and not any evidence it was intentional neglect. I will come back to the lion example again: that’s probably not something I’d ever been cool with (having my kids be up-close and personal with a lion). But again, there may be things I AM ok with that other parents aren’t. For example — my dad made a point with me when I was little to teach me how to swim in the ocean — having a healthy respect for the waves, but also knowing how to navigate them and ‘handle’ them. It was something I’m really grateful for as an adult — I love the ocean more than most people I know, and I hope to instill it in my kids as well. My husband, though, does NOT have this same appreciation for water — and says no way will our kids be allowed out as far in the waves as my dad took me. We’ll hash it out, I’m sure 😉 By the point is — is one of us objectively wrong, here?? I really can’t see any way that that is the case.

            • Richard Aubrey says:

              Bethany. Neither of you is objectively right or wrong, in the context of watching kids in the ocean. Your husband’s plan does provide for additional risk in case of something happening later on. Comfort in the water due to confidence is a major safety factor. The ocean is even more difficult than freshwater. I used to live in New England and swim in the ocean. Now I swim in freshwater lakes. The taste of salt water, if you’re not familiar with it, will add to a visceral panic that is not as strong when in trouble in fresh water. Time in the ocean is good training.
              Problem with the convenience store issue is that, when you’re not watching, anything can happen. The kid can get hold of something on the seat and choke on it. A criminal can take him away. The parent might be delayed by, say, a health problem and be unable to tell anybody about the kid. Or the credit card is maxed out and the store is suspicious. As to kids getting shot in armed robberies…hasn’t made the news recently. Don’t know about the stats.

  12. Peter North says:

    This is a thoughtful and well-written article. But it is also a very long exposition of one simple fact: people are mean when they make anonymous comments on the internet. In other news, water is wet.

  13. The internet does let our impulse to join the pack have an instant and anonymous outlet. I think the thought behind it is people’s often half conscious belief in a “just world” where people get what they deserve. In a negative light we’re responsible for every freakish thing that happens, however implausible the facts render that accountability. In a different light we’re in control of everything, wish so many of us want to believe. How comforting???? to believe that if I’m just perfect, then my life will likewise be perfect; perfectly safe, perfectly happy, perfectly successful. And of course someone will sell me the handbook on being perfect to make it all possible.

  14. All that I can say about this story anymore, is, that there are just some people out there who find it very hard to empathize or think of a story like this and consider all possibilities without judgement. I would like to say that they are just mean, judgemental, jerks, however I know they are probably not in most areas of life. I can only think that they just can’t help it. Their brains aren’t equipped to do this type of critical thinking. Tragic accidents can and will happen, even to those who think “That wouldn’t happen to me!” Unless you would like to live in a bubble, which isn’t really living in my opinion. Perhaps something unexpected hasn’t happened to them yet, YET! But when it does, maybe then they will be able to broaden their narrow minds.

  15. Richard Aubrey says:

    Nicole.
    The unexpected happens. But it happens less often to people who are paying attention and its consequences are less severe, usually, if the people involved are prepared to deal with it.

  16. Thank you for this article.

    In the last four weeks I have been appalled by the vicious attacks on Elizabeth Derkosh. I just hope and pray that she never sees some of the comments that have been made.

    Something like this could happen to any parent. Those to whom it doesn’t happen really are no smarter, no more careful, don’t love their children more. They are really just luckier.

    I’ve been trying to put myself in Elizabeth’s shoes. Imagining the aftermath. Did she have to push an empty stroller through the zoo, past happy families? Or see an empty carseat when she got into her car? What must it have been like to walk into her home for the first time after, to see her child’s room, his things? Does she have a job, a career, or has her entire identity just been yanked away from her? Will her marriage survive this kind of trauma?

    My heart goes out to her, and I can only hope that she works her way through this tragedy, with the love and support of her family and friends.

  17. John Anderson says:

    I remember a story of a woman who’s son was murdered. She said something to the effect that if I had the 24 hours previous to do over again and could change anything except for the murder, she would have spent the time with her son. She mentioned that she would have sat by his bed and watched him sleep.

    A grade school classmate of mine had fought with his brother. Went swimming and drowned. The last memory his brother had of him was the fight. He took it hard and started engaging in dangerous behavior. Within a year or two he died in a motorcycle accident. Many of us thought it was his way of committing suicide.

    Cherish the time you have with your loved ones and don’t sweat the small stuff.

  18. jodi poniewaz says:

    We’ve “talked” already but I will say this publicly as well, especially since I am quoted as having said that I had read that the mother had been asked by staff earlier in the day not to set her child on railings. I really did read this (maybe on cafemom?), and was asking if there was any validity to it, not thinking about how it was more likely to spread the rumor rather than confirm it.

    This whole thing definitely brought out the ugly in me.

    Believe it or not, I am generally (not always, but generally) one to cut a parent a lot of slack for a misstep or doing things differently than me, and that was my original reaction to this story. Everyone was asking where the parent was, and I said kids are quick and you can’t keep a hold of them every second. But once it came out that she had stood the child on a railing, this changed things for me. Knowing how high that railing is, and knowing what was under it, I am able to admit that I have made many mistakes in my life but I know with certainty that I would NOT do that.

    The problem is, maybe she didn’t do it either. The police and the DA were quoted (in writing) as saying she had stood the child on the railing. But if you listen to the video of the DA, he doesn’t actually say it – and I didn’t listen to that until yesterday. So who knows what the police said originally. Maybe the reporter substituted “on” for “at.” Maybe witnesses were so flustered even they didn’t remember what they saw. But seeing it in print, in a reputable source, I took it as fact and ran my mouth thinking I knew what I didn’t know.

    I believe the zoo to be safe, and I hate what lawsuits do to us as a whole. (My particular ax to grind being what lawsuits have done to OB care in our country). I hate seeing individuals or corporations blamed for things that no one could have anticipated. I was amazed at how many people who have never been to the zoo were saying the zoo was at fault. I personally do not believe the zoo could have foreseen this. They had a clean safety inspection a few months back, and in 100+ years something like this has never happened. I was so insistent on seeing it as a fluke from the zoo’s perspective that I was unable to see it as such from the mom’s point of view. I felt horrible for her, BUT I was sure she had to have stood him on the railing. And in that case…

    But the truth is I wasn’t there, and I don’t know anything about it – which makes me no better than those who blame the zoo without ever having been there, and a hypocrite to boot. I was believing sources I thought to be true, but maybe even they didn’t have it quite right. I didn’t feel the mother should be charged, and I never went so far as others to compare her to Casey Anthony or to say she should never have children again, nor did I blame her for not jumping in after her child since I am not sure what I would have done in that situation, I was still from from compassionate, for which I apologize. I will say now that I do believe it was completely unexpected and completely tragic for both sides.

  19. Bethany Bateman says:

    Jodi –

    As I said yesterday, I commend you wholeheartedly for saying these things.  I genuinely think it is very, very big of you.  Though I’d hoped to change some minds, my intention was not to shame anyone, so it is particularly admirable of you to come forward about this.

    I am not a litigious person whatsoever, but have lawyers in my family.  So in some ways I understand both sides, and have been both frustrated with people saying the Zoo should be sued, no question, AND those who have been rushing to defend the zoo and often bashing Elizabeth in the process.  My concern about it is that fear of getting sued can make companies/organizations be defensive about, and wary of, making common-sense safety changes for fear that it will indicate they are admitting fault.  In this case, like the DA said (something that as far as I can tell the media has not reported on), part of the railing broke off in the aftermath of people rushing to try to help.  I really think that is worrisome.  Does it mean the Zoo should be sued or fined or charged?  I don’t personally think so, but I DO think it shouldn’t stop them from making changes to strengthen the rail to address that particular issue at that exhibit and any others where it might apply.

    But obviously, the ultimate bashing of Elizabeth from so many angles was what struck a nerve with me here – not just that one in particular.  With regard to the rumors, the one you commented on in particular was, like I told you, one that I saw later discussed as though it were a fact.  I obviously don’t know that that was a direct result of what you said – even though you did in fact go on to note that you saw someone say it somewhere and would love to know if it were true —  but again, in a situation like this, that is how rumors go around.  There were a number of other ridiculous rumors I saw – but I’m not even going to mention them here, for fear of being part of the problem. And they typically in some places included ‘I saw someone comment somewhere’… and then other places, posters would state them as a given.

    Re: the media, yes, I watched in frustration as many, many people made the same mistake that you did of latching onto what they were saying.  And it’s an understandable one, and the media should DEFINITELY be held accountable for things like this.  I have had the experience of knowing a few people who’ve had situations unfortunate enough to get on the news, and have learned from experience that the media often gets details wrong, and don’t seem to so much care about this even when they are told this.  The video that ABC made was an egregious example.  You are right that the media has repeated ad nauseum that the child was ‘stood on’ or ‘put on’ the railing, but the only direct quote I had seen about it, and I looked around to try to prove myself wrong, was from the police officer who said it RIGHT after it happened – again, at a surely a very chaotic and confusing time. So I was eager to hear what the DA said, and it was suspicious to me that there were NO direct quotes being reported anywhere from the DA that said he was ‘stood on’ or ‘put on’ the railing, yet the media kept saying it.  And googling to look for the DA’s video, at least at first, got me nowhere – I don’t know if it’s as tough to find now as my husband tracked it down for me.  But that was why I included the video of the DA in the article.  I really believe that when we are concerned enough about something to make public statements about it, we should try to go to the primary source to see if what we’re saying is right or if we’re being part of the problem.  

    These are lessons that people should have a chance to learn, I totally get that, because some of these lessons are ones *I* have had to learn.  But I’ve been sad to see so many going on about it without stopping to listen to the people who have tried to talk to them about this kind of stuff – because those comments have been out there, but, again, generally, pretty quickly dismissed by people saying ‘but the newspaper said!!’  So thank you, thank you for being reasonable and compassionate enough to consider this viewpoint.

  20. Richard Aubrey says:

    Presume, for the sake of discussion, that mom did stand the kid on the rail.
    Considering she not only lost her son, but what brain cells she possesses might lead her to think it’s her fault, which would be terrible, what are we allowed to say about her?
    IMO, nothing. There’s no point.
    Except that pointing to her as a lesson might be useful and save other lives. Except that anybody who doesn’t know this from age three isn’t going to get the lesson even if the death were shown in HD on a seven-foot screen.
    May as well say nothing at all.

  21. Holly Joyce says:

    Bethany…what a great article and great writing!

  22. I think we all want to believe that this was a parenting mistake and not something you could have absolutely no control of. Theres enough bad things to worry about, adding this to the list of car accidents abductions and everything else, it takes away one more feeling of security that we thought we could have at of all places the zoo.

  23. You are 100% correct. I can’t imagine the pain the entire Derkosh family is feeling. I hope your article helps some of these people who have piled on with their own anger and fear think twice before they do so again.

  24. jodi poniewaz says:

    Well to my mule-headed earlier point of view, standing the child on the rail only mattered from the standpoint of showing that the zoo did that they could to make the exhibit safe, but that their protective measures were intentionally breached. However, even if that were the case, and even if in my mind the wall was so high and so sloped that no one would stand a child there, the fact is people do stand children on walls. I wouldn’t do it, but perhaps to someone taller, or stronger, or more whatever, it wouldn’t seem a bad idea, and as such I suppose should be accounted for in the plan. Even if the parent did stand the child there or for whatever other reason was at fault, it was a child who had no say so in the matter who paid the price. And so, regardless of who is at fault here, and regardless of how well the zoo planned things, this still shows that it could have been planned better and that it can be improved upon. I kept insisting that it was highly implausible that a child could accidentally fall over this wall, but that doesn’t change the fact that it happened. I guess it takes the unforeseeable to show us what we didn’t see.

    Beyond that, you are correct – pointing it out over and over to the mother serves no purpose.

    • jodi poniewaz says:

      Sorry – that was in response to Richard if it wasn’t clear.

      • Bethany Bateman says:

        That’s a really good point, Jodi. Even if, again, for argument’s sake, it was a parent being incredibly stupid and not a freak accident — it seems like if it’s physically possible that it could happen, even in the face of someone not following the rules, it would be good to try to anticipate it and avoid it happening again. B/c even if they have signs absolutely everywhere, and even though, yes, parents shouldn’t be stupid — a kid shouldn’t have to pay the price.
        As I’ve said, I’m not litigious, so it’s not like I’m hoping the zoo is punished or sued or something — that’s not really my style. It’s also not a case where there are going to be hospital bills or something — no amount of money, obviously, can bring him back. But I do hope that if there are safety modifications they can make to this and other exhibits that might have similar layouts, the fear of it looking like they are admitting fault doesn’t keep them from doing it. On that note, my boss (who I told about this) used to work doing educational outreach at the Fort Worth Zoo, and she said that, even though they are actually known for having really good visibility in their exhibits, their open-air exhibits all have ‘double barriers’ so that if one is breached, there is still a second one to protect the person. So in the example of the Painted Dogs exhibit, if there were a fence below the platform and a few feet in front of it, if someone or something were to fall from the platform again, there would still be a fence separating them from the dogs. I think that platform is high enough that putting a fence below it and then a few feet forward would probably not have much, if any, impact on the visibility when you are standing on it.

  25. Richard Aubrey says:

    There are fools, and there are damned fools. Most of our safety work is designed with the latter in mind. (“Do not iron clothes while wearing them.”) But, whatever their other deficiencies, damned fools do have their moments of inspired ingenuity. Breathtaking, unbelievable ingenuity. Leaves the rest of us shaking our heads and asking how anybody could possibly anticipate THAT.

  26. She is a mother, she is not a monster… she is not stupid, she is not a horrible mother, she is not an idiot… she is simply, a mother. She wanted to spend the day with her family at the zoo… to watch the excitement in her sons eyes, the hapiness in his adorable smile! When she noticed he could not see the dogs clearly she did what most of us would do… picked him up! I’ve done it thousands of times and I know you have too! We don’t think of the worst possible outcome, we think of making the little ones happy, of getting to enjoy another smile and the wonder in their eyes. If we constantly think of all of the bad that can happen in every little thing we do, we will go insane! It is life an everything we do is a risk. I will forever think of little Maddox, for the rest of my days, everytime I am about to lift my children at any exhibit and maybe it will change my decision. When my children grow and have their own visiting a zoo I will tell his story and warn them of the dangers. Baby Jessica falling into the well still plays in my mind when my kids are by a hole in the ground and I was only a child when that happened. We learn from others but we don’t forsee all dangers. Kids are quick and I am sure the way this story reads can happen easily and to any of us! We cannot blame anyone… yes, if she never picked him up he may still be here, I’m pretty sure she realizes that an doesn’t need reminded more than she reminds herself! and it wasn’t wrong of her to do that, she was just being a mom! I’m sure this event plays in her head non stop. If the zoo had better barriers… and that would lead to complaints from guest, that stupid fence is blocking my view… people are never satisfied and are very quick to judge! I have friends who have lost children during birth, who have gone to get their newborn from the crib in the morning to find that they had passed away during the night. One infant lost both of his legs from Sepsis (an infection) and a 2 year old girl is fighting cancer as I type this… they did nothing wrong, maybe they could have prevented it somehow in some of those cases but we do not think of the worst every second of the day! Children can choke to death eating the meal their mother made them, car accidents happen everyday, they can fall at the playground and lose their lives… sometimes things just go very wrong very fast. Maddox, with his awesome smile and those dark rimmed glasses over his little curious boy eyes, left an impression on my heart forever. I never even knew his name before this happened but I pray that his mother knows how much the little love of her life touched so many of us around the world! Remember that she is the one who wakes up every morning unable to hear his laugh, to hear his voice, to hug him… She attempts to fall asleep everynight with his voice playing in her mind, maybe she read to him everynight, maybe they had chocolate milk before bed everynight, maybe they sang songs, whatever they did, SHE can never do again… she can never tuck her baby in again, kiss him on the head and turn to catch one last glimpse as she turns out the light…. DO NOT JUDGE HER…. she is a just a mother.

  27. Angela Rose says:

    Dawn,
    I think you said everything that I wanted to say but failed to do. I was blessed with 2 children and 3 grandchildren. This whole story broke my heart and my daughter cried for a week. We think of Elizabeth and her husband now and the grandparents – – with all the lights and wonder of the beautiful Christmas season. We are praying for them. Your words touched my heart…. I never judged her. She is not Casey Anthony. Some people acted like she was an uncaring mother. It was a HORRIBLE accident and for anyone to say it couldn’t have happened to them- doesn’t live in a real world. I kept thinking about it and it only takes a second for a tragedy to happen suddenly. God bless the Derkosh family and you will remain in my prayers forever. Thank you, Dawn. God bless you as well!

  28. Thank you for writing this. I have been very disturbed by the horrfic chatter I see about this accident. What the DA has described could happen to anyone, and it is terrifying.

    After many years of absence, I have found myself now back in church praying for Maddox and my own children’s safety. I do not think I will ever take my kids to the Zoo without being terrified.

    I will say, I would not want anyone to hold me back from jumping in the pit . I would rather die with my child in the pit then face this for the rest of my life, and I suspect Elizabeth feels the same way.

    This is one of the saddest stories of my time. I can not recall ever being touched quite like this. The nature of the death is unspeakable.

    I know accidents happend all the time but this is unbearable. I did not know the boy or family but they are in my thoughts and prayers

  29. Great article! Coming from another angle, I looked at the hypothetical “I would have jumped in there” mentality and broke down why, scientifically, that’s absurd. African Painted Dogs are one of the most formidable predators on earth, with the strongest Bite Force Quotient of all Carnivora. Interestingly, they are also excellent parents. Learn more: http://bit.ly/SBEs8T

    • There is somethign to be said for dying with my child. I would not be able to live with this accident and jumping in would of been a better fate. I would want to die with my child.

      From what I understand the mother was held back. For me that would be a disservice. I would not be able to cope with this and Id rather be buried with my son.

      Derkosh Family is in my prayers as is Maddox.

    • Bethany Bateman says:

      Thanks Jason, that was a really interesting article.

      My only concern, though, is that many of the people crticizing the mother have overlooked the fact that the DA said she DID try to go in, but was held back by bystanders. This was noteworthy to me because the implication seems to be over and over: she didn’t have that parental instinct that’s as strong as mine, no matter HOW dangerous these dogs are — because *I* would do that!! I’m honestly not clear on whether people just aren’t reading the articles they’re commenting on and so don’t KNOW that the DA said that or what… though some have made it clear they are saying that in SPITE of the DA’s statement — ie ‘no one would be strong enough’ to hold them back (given how much they love their child). I said to another writer on here the other day that I sometimes think many readers of article just live on a parallel plane of existence where they simply do not have the same version of reality that the rest of us do, in spite of the facts being readily available to them (and maybe, even having just READ those facts). A good example of this was that, yesterday (if you didn’t hear), the Zoo announced that they would be closing down that observation platform. People were talking about it over and over as though they were shutting down the exhibit entirely. Jodi correctly pointed out to them that that wasn’t what they said — they just said they were shutting down THAT platform, not the entire exhibit.

      Let me ask you a question (maybe more ‘run something by’ you) that I have wondered about… early on, I saw a woman say something to the effect of, ‘I feel silly saying this — but I honestly never realized these dogs were so dangerous, and I don’t think the zoo did much to make that clear in the set-up of this exhibit.’ Also, when I had heard that they had gotten out of their enclosure at the zoo (in May, I believe?) my honest reaction when I heard this was ‘oh, well at least it wasn’t a lion or bear or something REALLY dangerous.’ I am starting to believe more over time that this was just not a particularly responsible layout for this exhibit (see my comment above about ‘double barriers’ that I’ve learned is the standard for predatory animals at many zoos). I might be way off on this (maybe it’s just a coincidence) — but in the link I have in the article — pasting it here again

      http://iamnotananteater.blogspot.com/2012/11/breaching-barriers-at-san-francisco-zoo.html

      — all of the animals in those pictures where parents are holding their kids on the rail are not necessarily ‘stereotypically dangerous’ animals, with the exception of possibly the rhino. But, it just doesn’t seem like terribly many average zoo-going people would think ‘oh, a hippo/anteater/monkey’ could be deadly, I need to be REALLY careful here (even though maybe it’s a myth, but my understanding has always been that hippos are in fact pretty dangerous).

      I do understand that people are saying over and over to remarks such as mine ‘they were wild dogs, I would NEVER be stupid enough to think they weren’t dangerous’ — but as you’ve pretty rightly pointed out, it doesn’t seem like people know HOW dangerous these dogs are… in other words, they aren’t just ‘feral dogs’ like I really believe most people think of them.

      So, my point of all this is — I am just starting to REALLY wonder if people, before this all happened, would’ve thought there was something a little unsafe about this set-up if it were lions or bears below — or if the zoo would’ve ever had a layout like this for a more ‘stereotypically dangerous’ animal. And particularly worrisome — see my comment above — is that, if you watch through to the end of the DAs remarks (sadly, I don’t think many have seen or had much access to the video at ALL), he says that part of the wooden barrier actually tore off in the aftermath from being pulled on — and that perhaps something stronger like steel would’ve been more appropriate. I think that is pretty major cause for concern.

      • You raise a lot interesting points. But I wonder how much what’s below even matters. 14 feet is a long way to fall whether it’s wild dogs or whistling marmots.

        What I will say is that they still don’t really know how the tiger got out of the San Francisco Zoo. Whether it’s a dog, a tiger, or a foreign plant species, we need to accept that nature is not package-able. Even our best attempts to safely corral it are educated guesses at best.

        Zoos certainly give us an illusion of safety. These places bring us into proximity with dangers we would never in a million years have access to otherwise – teeth, claws, venom, pathogens. And no matter how many walls, moats and bars we put into place, accidents will happen. We must accept that. It’s no different than strapping yourself into a carnival ride designed to launch into the air at 80 mph, upside down and sideways, and then being surprised when a buckle disengages once every billion rides. (http://www.rideaccidents.com/)

        Yes, we probably take chances we wouldn’t normally because we believe the proper personnel are watching out for us – be they zoo managers or amusement park architects. At some level though, we need to accept that we are taking a risk, one that is far, far less risky than an average rush hour – but a risk all the same.

        Having profiled the Wildlife Management Team at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I’m here to tell you that people make bad decisions even when there are no bars or barriers. Time and time again, these guys are forced to respond to a situation where a tourist encroaches on a bear’s territory or alters its behavior with food conditioning (i.e., Subway sandwiches). Perhaps people think there’s no danger because they’re in a National Park. (Even though there are quite a few instances of bear attack and even some deaths in and around the park.)

        My point isn’t to blame the mother here – there’s a world of difference between this tragic accident and the woman who willingly climbed over two fences to get a better picture of a polar bear http://bittelmethis.com/bear-myths-mothers-cubs/. But these incidents are two sides of the same coin. No Pittsburgher would have been eaten by wild dogs that day if wild dogs were left in their native African habitat. But no Pittsburgher would have been instilled with a sense of awe for nature or global conservation thanks to the proximity to wild animals, either.

        Animals are unpredictable, humans are fallible, and sometimes terrible things happen. The best we can do is

        1. Be cognizant of the risks wild animals represent and work to minimize them wherever possible.
        2. React like human beings, with compassion and empathy, whenever the unthinkable occurs.

  30. jodi poniewaz says:

    Sorry if a partial response came through – THE REFRESH happened mid-post.

    This exhibit actually used to be the cheetah. I can’t remember if the observation deck was any different then. Can cheetahs jump?? Maybe not 11 feet? But at any rate there was something more obviously dangerous there at one time. I was only at the zoo once during that time and I really can’t remember the cheetah at all.

    The dogs getting out in May is not what it sounds like. I think they just got into a part of their own exhibit that was supposed to be fenced off. But it was on the radio that the zoo was under lock down because an animal had gotten out – when they said it was the dogs I had the same thought as you, oh, just the dogs. Just some doggies. Not a big deal. But the public may have never been in any danger anyway. I don’t know if initially the dogs were simply unaccounted for and they feared there was danger, or if the spin on this story is another case of the media running off half-cocked. (So yeah, hey, I should know better, right?)

    I went to the zoo after this happened and took a look at everything with the question of, could a child get into this? And most of the exhibits do use this double barrier system, so we can look at the animals without them being behind bars etc. A few exhibits use plexiglass so there is a single barrier but no way to breach it from the visitor’s side – two leopard exhibits, kimodo dragon, polar bear, some aquatic stuff, penguins (likely more for climate control than the danger factor). A lot of things have a fence of some sort followed by a little bit of land and then a moat, deep in some instances, shallower in others. Others just have a fence and then a shallowish moat. There are a few spots where there is just a railing and then a drop directly to the animal. Flamingos (pretty tame), beavers, alligator or crocodile – can’t remember if they have one of each or both the same, otters… But at any rate EVERYTHING is clearly designed from the standpoint of protecting the people from the animal. There’s no where that is seems an animal is going to come out to the people.

    The deck above the dogs worked, from this standpoint. You could, if you were so inclined, get into many of the exhibits if you wanted to – but for the most part it would be a voluntary effort on your part since there would be multiple obstacles to overcome. Even if someone were dropped into the tiger or bears, they’d have a fighting chance to be grabbed back up. I don’t know if that is planned into the design or it just happens to be that way. I guess what this shows is, you can have a double barrier in one direction, but not the other. “Space” only works as a barrier on the way up, not down. But it is a huge problem if you need to get someone back out in a hurry. Those pictures you linked to at the SF zoo at least show that the child could quickly be retrieved – the drop at the dogs eliminated that choice and despite what anyone says about rushing in, I am sure it gave the crowd pause. It’s one thing to say you’d have jumped in to help but imagine scaling your neighbor’s chain link fence vs. jumping off your roof. The mother was probably restrained out of this self preservation instinct being present in all others on the deck.

    So Pittsburgh definitely has double barriers in place.

    And yeah hippos are surprisingly dangerous. They look cute and lumbering but they will attack people. They’re also insanely expensive to keep, which is why so few zoos have them. We have gone to Toledo, to see the hippos. They’re a lot of fun to watch. Pittsburgh hasn’t had a hippo in ages. I don’t know if captive hippos lose some of that instinct – people have had them as pets (I think there was a semi-famous one named Jessica, who liked massages and coffee). I was actually most surprised, I think, that even though these were “wild” dogs, they were bred in captivity – but the kill instinct was still so strong.

    Anyway. They HAVE put a lot of thought into making the zoo safe, maximizing how well you can view the animals, minimizing the use of bars and cages. But maybe it’s been thought of too much as a one-way thing vs. a two-way thing. Maybe a “drop” is not a good barrier because there’s no way to quickly grab someone back. Without the drop, maybe this would have been safer. I think maybe they tried to take advantage of Pittsburgh’s topography without thinking it might be a double-edged sword.

  31. Thoughtful article Bethany! I can’t go along with the witch hunt of the mother. It was a horrible and tragic accident that ended the little one’s death. As human beings with empathy, and imperfections ourselves, why not show some compassion to the mother who will live with a nightmare, with every breath she takes, for the rest of her life. To all the infallible mother/fathers/judgemental persons who fling their superior attitude around like it’s reality…get over yourselves, and do some soul searching, if you dare.

  32. *ended in the little one’s death*

  33. Mary Lou Monheim says:

    Thank you for such a sane reply for this attack on a mother.Fact is mothers cannot always protect their children be they 2 or 33. I hope your artical brings her some peace. You can feel the love in your writing well done.

  34. Amen. I am a mother of five (including triplets). My husband and I raised our children living away from extended family so we had very little help of any kind. We used to joke that while we aimed to raise well adjusted, happy, healthy, productive members of society, our primary goal each day was to keep our children alive. We received a mixed bag of responses to this comment, but other parents of large families seemed to relate to the sentiment. My husband and I were both well aware that at any time the unforseen could happen. Even when we, as parents, do our very best to prevent it, tragedy could strike. A car, a body of water, a kidnapper or a fall could rob us of our precious child at any time. We all do our best and when one of us loses the most precious possible gift we should all feel empathy for the family and mourn along with them….and hug our own children a little tighter…..and realize how very lucky we are to still have them to hold….for we are not perfect. I feel blessed every day that I never had to endure such a horrific experience in my life and I pray that I never will. I hope that this family will someday find peace.

  35. R. Todd Erkel says:

    Brave and thorough writing. Every time I approached that exhibit at the Pgh Zoo it caused me pause — it never felt adequately planned or protected. I was disheartened by the Zoo’s official public response.

  36. Thank you so much for writing this article. I must admit that I too was devastated and furious when I first read about this tragedy. I think that people always look for a reason to explain something so horrible…perhaps it’s our human need to convince ourselves that horror is not random but that someone or something is always responsbilbe. This helps us deal with our fear that the world is chaos….something we cannot bear to believe.

    Then I found out her name and googled it. What came up was her Pinterest page. It is still up and I think anyone who vilifies her should go to it. There are countless pictures of little boy’s rooms decorated with trucks and there are several photos of Thomas the Tank Engine railroad tables. Everything was about him and the love she had for him was palpable on those pages. I knew then that this was a horrific accident and I began to cry for her. I am still crying for her because her life is ruined and no, she was not irresponsible and she did absolutely nothing that any parent with a visually impaired child wouldn’t have done. Dear God, how could you let this happen? Please take care of Mrs. Derkosh.

    • Sadly the events of how the child fell were misreported, and it took a few weeks for the final report to come out. Elizabeth did not dangle the child on the railing as it was reported, nor did she stand him on the railing. Somehow, Maddox lunged out of her arms, and that was the end.

      We live in a world where Zookeeper do not carry guns, but teachers are suppose to.

      I suspects I will think about this child for the rest of my life, as I will the 20 children in Sandy Hook. We expects Zoos and schools to be 100 percent safe. Both tragedies are unspeakable.

      Loosing a child to illness is unbearable, losing a child in this manner is beyond comprehension. I would be ruined beyond repair.

      Pray for these families.

  37. Meiyen says:

    I know it has been several months since this article and the tragedy occurred. When I first heard the story, I felt nothing but anguish, horror, and PAINFUL sympathy for Elizabeth Derkosh. I found a Facebook page of mothers who banded together to write letters of support to Elizabeth, and I joined them. As a mother, it is still so, so hard for me to think about what happened, and I spent several virtually sleepless nights over the tragedy, thinking of what Elizabeth Derkosh must be going through. I felt angry when I read the judgmental statements of so many. At the end of the day, all of those people who were so quick to judge did not have to come home to an empty toddler’s bedroom full of trucks and no one to play with them…they did not have to plan and sit through a funeral for their mauled baby boy…and they don’t have to live with this horror for the rest of their lives. My heart hurts terribly for Elizabeth Derkosh, even to this day. Of course she has feelings of guilt – what parent wouldn’t? But that doesn’t mean she’s a bad or negligent parent, or that she’s any worse a mother than anyone else. This was just a terrible accident. My prayers continue to go out for the Derkosh family. You are always on my heart, as is little Maddox.

    • So, now the mother has filed a civil suit against the zoo for a minimum or 300K in damages. I was curious if this would change anybody’s opinion, or your thought’s on the case. This is the first source I have found that presents some good arguments against fault and for sympathy.

      • The Derkosh,s should bankrupt the Zoo, and it still would not be enough. Call me a blue state liberal, but a family zoo needs to be childproof. i will go further to say, the schools in Ok should have storm cellars, and mentally I’ll teenagers should not have AR-15″s.

        We can not stop every act of violence and tragedy but schools need to safe and children ca not be attacked at zoos. that exhibit was a disaster waiting to happen.

        I would eater die in the pit with my child then face this the rest of my life.

        pray for the child and family.

  38. Maryland Mom says:

    What a terrific article. Thank you for writing this. We as parents are ALL guilty of multiple mistakes and missteps and oversights that could end in tragedy. But most of the time we get lucky. Mrs. Derkosh didn’t. But she is no worse a parent that any of us. It’s impossible to be perfect all the time. The haters feel otherwise because it makes them believe their fate is in their control. And the sad reality is that we have very very little control. Most of life is luck.

  39. Yes, it’s a horrific occurrence, but the parents are to blame.

    It’s interesting to hear that the parents are apparently asking for **more money** from their civil suit.

Trackbacks

  1. […] a well-researched piece, Bethany Bateman wrote about how statistically, the parents whose children are harmed in freak accidents like that one are exactly like you and me. I’ve held my kids up to see over the railing of an enclosure. Haven’t you? I probably […]

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