GUEST VIEW: Ignoring the red flags can have deadly implications

The following editorial was published in the Aug. 7 edition of the Grand Haven Tribune:

In the face of tragedy, hundreds of people rallied together, risking their own lives, to plunge into Lake Michigan on Sunday afternoon.

These people, strangers locked arm in arm, waded into the turbulent lake to search for a swimmer who had succumbed to the water’s unforgiving power.

The fact that these people waded bravely into the water was heroic.

The fact that they had to enter the water was tragic.

Red flags had been flying at Grand Haven State Park all day. A red flag means extremely hazardous conditions, with high surf and/or strong currents.

When the red flag is flying, you should stay out of the water. It’s that simple.

But that clearly wasn’t the case Sunday. Even after emergency officials rushed to the beach and pulled a lifeless body from the water earlier in the day, people continued to tempt fate by heading out into the lake.

Only when police closed the beach did people stay out of the waves — for a while. Later Sunday evening, despite the fact that two people had drowned and several others had to be rescued, people could still be seen frolicking in the surf.

Local students are taught what the flags mean and are urged to abide by their warnings.

But some people choose to ignore the warnings. Perhaps they think they’re a strong-enough swimmer to handle Lake Michigan’s power. Perhaps the thrill of body surfing is just too great to resist.

Maybe Sunday was just too blasted hot out for some and they needed the relief of the cool lake.

Lake Michigan is a stunningly beautiful body of water. On a hot day, its cool waters are a Siren’s call. Like the Sirens of Greek mythology, Lake Michigan can be deadly.

Now, there are two families mourning the loss of a loved one.

There are families at the hospital, watching over their loved ones who escaped with their lives, but just barely.

And there are those who waded out into the water and will forever live with the scars of seeing a lifeless body being pulled from the waves.

When the red flag is flying, stay out of the water. Don’t tempt fate. Don’t risk your life, or the lives of others who might be called upon to try to save you.

As we learned Sunday, it really is a matter of life and death.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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