It was NOT suppose to end this way, but it did. What was supposed to be (for me, anyway) the final triumph, the final “hurrah” of my career before retirement instead became a very sobering reminder of the dangerous nature of the jobs we do.
2017 Fleet Week New York came to and end tonight; the ships leave tomorrow. My NPASE East team drives out about 10:30 tomorrow morning. I am very far behind in my travel blogging. I still have to write about finally visiting Ground Zero, about a my nighttime excursion to the top of the Empire State Building, Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the general craziness of New York City. However, I got blindsided by food poisoning on Saturday (May 27) and was 100% incapacitated for the whole day.
I got back to work yesterday at the Media Operations Center (MOC) after covering the Mass at St. Patrick’s and was still getting spun back up to speed when I overheard one of my civilian colleagues on the phone mention, “Yeah, a chute failed to open.”
The Leap Frogs, the Navy’s elite parachute team had been doing a demonstration jump over Liberty State Park across the Hudson in New Jersey. The Leap Frogs are all SEALs, so they are the elite of the Navy elite.
One man’s primary chute failed. He cut it away, and then, unbelievably, his reserve chute also failed and he crashed into the Hudson. He was pronounced dead after being taken to a local hospital.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to his family, and I ask for all of your prayers for the Navy SEAL community who lost a true patriot today,” said Rear Adm. Jack Scorby, commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, in a statement partially prepared by my civilian colleague.
My colleague had to help handle this; I got back into gear pushing out the products coming fro the other events. But the whole celebratory week took on a very dark cloud.
Ironically this tragedy happens the day before Memorial Day, a day our nation uses to pause and remember those who wore the uniform and have died. We remember those who died in battle, yes, but we also remember all who served and had passed away. Today we also remember a Leap Frog whose name is still being withheld until his next of kin have been notified and had time to absorb the shock of their loss.
I was not there, but this Sailor’s death bothers me. He was jumping to entertain the crowd, to show off the skills our service trains its Sailors in for the people who pay us. He was jumping during a week celebrating the sea services. Instead he lived for several minutes with both chutes failed, flying straight down at a speed of at least 120 mph. I can’t imagine what he thought, felt, or feared in those minutes. But it disturbs me.
My own selfishness also bothers me. I was just a small little cog in a very big machine this week. The fact the public affairs staff functioned successfully while was I incapacitated proves that I was certainly not the indispensable man. Still, this week for me was supposed to be the “pinnacle” of a career in public affairs.
This tragedy makes me feel very…small. Very shallow. Like I was wrong to have been so focused on my own career’s conclusion. I feel very guilty that I’m actually upset this week got marred…even while I feel very disturbed by the death that happened yesterday. I’m feeling guilty that something I looked forward was darkened by this…but all I “lost” was a “good week.” I didn’t lost someone I love. Someone else did.
And here I go feeling upset my “good week” was darkened.
Doesn’t speak very well of me, does it?