Monday, May 26, 2008

Non Rugby: Finding a dead body

I thought for a while about whether I should blog about this, since it's completely non-rugby. But it's my space to do with what I want, and today I want to write about what happened to me and my partner on Saturday. This memorial day weekend did not turn out the way I expected.

We decided to take the two younger dogs to the local dog park on Saturday, and then go for a short hike. The Mondauk dog park in Ft Washington is a really terrific place for pet owners. They have a big dog area, a little dog area, and a couple of different trails. We spent some time in the big dog park, walked down one of the little trails, and then decided it would be fun to explore the creek.

It reminded me a lot of living in Colorado, and hiking up a shallow stream bed looking for a hot fishing spot. Really really good times. I was super happy :)

So we're about calf deep in water, looking at the baby fish and laughing at Ursula (the giant puppy), as she experienced wading for the first time. A couple of times we thought about turning around, but each time decided, "naa, maybe there will be a really cool little picnic spot around the bend".

Except there wasn't. There was a dead body. At first, for just a second, I actually thought it might be a mannequin. But in my heart I knew it wasn't. The body was small. It was male. He was face down in the water, in jeans & a short sleeved shirt. He didn't have any shoes on. It looked like a kid.

So we called 911 and immediately got out of the water. We really weren't deep in the woods at all - it was one of those suburban hiking trails, where it seems remote, but really your skimming backyards along the way.

By the time we got out of the woods, the police had arrived. We led them back to the body. The first officer mentioned that there hadn't been any recent reports of missing kids, and that the body may have been in the water for a while. The second officer took our names and contact info, and then we left and went home. The very first thing we did was take showers. There is something about being in the water with a dead body that makes you feel so much worse than just dirty. It makes you feel like you have death on you. As if death were somehow contagious and we could wash it off.

It was really odd - i wasn't upset, or shocked, or anything like that. But my adrenaline was very high. I felt like I desperately needed to tell someone what had happened. So I told a few people, and realized maybe I was a little more upset that I thought.

We decided we needed to have some sangria and just chill. My partner recently lost a family member (as in like 3 days ago) so it was a little more death than either of us needed. We spent the rest of the day on the deck - with a fire burning and wine in hand.

Saturday night we put on the news, and sure enough, there was the story. That's when I finally freaked out a little. I mean, this was a kid - it's amazing how your brain starts inventing possible back stories. Who was he, what happened, what about his family, was it an accident, was it foul play, what? When I closed my eyes that night it was clear that the image of this body, face down in the creek, with jeans, a short sleeved shirt, and no socks, would be burned in my memory forever.

So now it's Monday and it's still on my mind. It's still in the news, and what's interesting is that the person face down in the stream with jeans, a short sleeved shirt, and no shoes was in fact an adult male. They identified him via a cell phone, and are waiting to release his name pending notification of his family. Hopefully that will happen soon - regardless of what the circumstances are surrounding his death, I imagine his family wants and needs this closure.

Today's Memorial day and it strikes me that for someone will remember Memorial day as the time the found out the fate of a missing family member.

So that's it. The fire, alcohol, and showers haven't done a thing to soften the image of the dead stranger, face down in the creek, in jeans and a short sleeved shirt, with with no socks. It's going to take more than a weekend for sure.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting that story, unpleasant as it must have been for you. My friends and I used to visit Mondauk Park years ago for picnics and nature walks. It's a beautiful place. What a shock to learn about a dead body. Whether the cause of death turns out to be suicide, foul play or some kind of accident, it's very sad. I hope the memory of it does not stay with you for too long, or ruin your fondness for the park.


matt said...

soo weird that i stumbled upon this. I live literally in that neighborhood (walking in the creek away from the dog park the one to the left) I played in those woods and creek all during my childhood. It shocked me too. I was thankful it wasnt a kid but still so tragic. I hope also that the memory doesnt stay with you long. go rugby