I recently spent a vacation on a cruise that ended up all over the news. I struggled quite a bit internally for a few days on whether I wanted to write this article or not. I decided to put my thoughts out there and maybe it would help me cope. I was enjoying 7-days in the beautiful blue Caribbean waters working on indulging in some food and drinks, enjoying a nice relaxing trip (or two) to the spa, and reading in the suns warm rays by the pool. I was thoroughly relaxed and close to finding my zen when all of a sudden, like a thief in the night, my tranquility was swept out to sea.
If you have been following the news in the past few days, you will know that a young man recently ended his life by jumping overboard on the Oasis of the Seas. As fate would have it, this was the same vessel that my husband and I chose for our anniversary vacation. At around 1 AM on Friday 6th of November, 2015 our giant ship came to a halt, then started doing concentric circular rounds near where we stopped. I awoke a few hours later to see two little yellow rescue boats in the water zooming back and forth right beside our room’s balcony. On a ship where your rooms are all connected and everyone is out on their balconies, it didn’t take very long at all to get the low down on what was occurring before my eyes.
Whispers started from balcony to balcony like wildfire. It seems a man climbed over his balcony and onto the roof of a lifeboat after a domestic dispute, the ship’s security saw this happening on camera and headed down to his room, there was a bit of drama, and he went overboard. After absorbing what was occurring around us and being hit with the weight of it all we decided we needed to step out and get some fresh air.
Kenin and I went out for a walk around the ship to find some coffee and maybe a bit of breakfast. The whispers continued as everyone was speculating. The ship was not it’s previous joyous atmosphere. It seemed a dark cloud had settled over everyone’s vacationing spirits. We were sad and shaken by the fact that someone went overboard, it had been hours of our ship’s crew searching the waters, the Coast Guard showed up after a few hours to aid in this search, still… the young man was not found.
At that time, we didn’t know if he was pushed, if he was drunk and thought it would be fun to climb over his balcony, if he was thrown over or some combination of these things. There was a great amount of uncertainty. This is where my internal struggles took hold. I was quickly informed that the newspapers in Miami already printed the story of “Man Overboard”.
News and social media already spread footage of the guy going over from videos taken by passengers who all shared the same side of the ship that my husband and I were currently roomed in. While saddened for this man and his family, this is not what shook me to my core. What bothered me the most, and made me fear for us as a society and our integrity as human beings, were the folks with their video cameras and phones. The folks that stood by at 1AM snapping photos and taking video while a man struggled to end his own life and others struggled to save it. Word spread quickly across our vessel that these videos were already up on all forms of social media and many passengers could be heard saying “Hey you can watch and see exactly what happened.”
Even now, with video footage, no one is exactly sure what took place, but this is what I know for certain: A man went overboard, he was never recovered, more than likely he perished, and it happened a few feet from where I was sleeping. I refused to watch the footage to save my own sanity.
The trouble that I am having is not with the facts. It’s with other people’s reaction to tragedy and mourning. I don’t want to be bombarded by images or videos of someone’s death. I could have chosen to be out there with the rest of my shipmates, snapping photos of rescue boats and coast guard planes, but I made a conscious choice not to do this. Someone died. This is a tragedy. How he died was not of very much importance to me, I did not know him personally, but that does not negate the fact that he died. I thought the respectful thing to do would be to say a few words of sendoff in my mind, hope that he didn’t suffer, briefly mourn his death, and only hope that his family would eventually recover from this incident.
I didn’t need evidence of my presence onboard, I didn’t need to share this tragedy with anyone not currently by my side, I didn’t need videos to increase my blog or social media views. I chose to act with respect and dignity. I am not a reporter. I was just a regular person enjoying a vacation when tragedy struck.
More and more I see folks getting upset with media outlets for the way they are reporting and how they act when dealing with such tragedies. Somehow, when we are faced with a similar situation, we react in the same way that traditional media would. We record first and think later. Because of the lack of restraint and respect, this young man’s family will now be left with a lasting image that they can actually see (not envision) of his death. They have photos that they can access and videos that they can play on repeat to see if they can figure out exactly what happened. They will forever be haunted by their last memory of him, a dark video taken by some gawking bystander with no back story, just a plummeting death into the deep, dark abyss.
I chose not to be a cause of someone else’s pain.
I want no part of someone pulling up one of my photos or videos and feeling pain or despair or helplessness. I am sharing this article, not to change the way others react to tragedy, though I do hope it will make some people stop and think before they act. I am sharing this so that later on in my life, I can look back and have self respect. I am sharing this so that the next time I am faced with some form of catastrophe I will once again act with dignity so that I can keep my self respect.
My heart goes out to the family of Bernardo Elbaz. May he rest in peace and may his family somehow, at some point in time find solace.