The news this morning that a young bicycle racer had been mauled by a Brown bear in Bicentennial Park kept me looking back for good news on her status through the day. The base article in the Anchorage Daily News was modified a couple of times in the morning, so I hoped to hear that she was improving. Our family joined hers and many others in prayer on Sunday.
I was totally appalled by some reader comments to the article. I won't quote any of the appalling ones. But, later in the day Sunday, a friend of the cyclist's family posted this:
On behalf of the family of the girl involved I would like to thank those of you who have posted sincere and compassionate messages wishing her and her family well. It is wonderful people like you who have made Anchorage an incredible place to grow up. As a lifelong Alaskan, the girl's father is keenly aware of Anchorage's proximity to Alaska, the wildlife that one is likely to encounter and the inherent risks of recreation and travel in our "urban wilderness." The family wishes to thank the EMT personnel and first-responders on the scene who acted quickly to get her to the hospital.
As a family friend and mentor to this exceptionally kind hearted teenager, I am appalled by the Sunday quarterbacking of many of the posters on this forum. Have you no decency??? Have you no heart??? Lawsuits??? Blame??? Fingerpointing. You are the vocal minority of Anchorage that disgusts me. It's easy for you to hide behind aliases to fire pot-shots at this family, the sport and organization that they support 100%. With a few "facts" you have seen fit to run your imaginations right off the cliff. Like lemmings straight into the abyss--which is likely where you came from--which is ultimately where you belong.
Decency! That is what the family asks for at this time. Your hopes, prayers, positive thoughts, well-wishes, and above all, decency to be compassionate at this very difficult time.
The family holds no blame for anyone involved. They fully knew the risks and chose to support their daughter who has participated in this event some 4 years of her young life which thankfully is still intact.
Please. Behave. Do your Sunday quarterbacking in private and show a little respect. At a minimum, have the guts to give your real names.
Good for you, Janice!
Over the past four summers, my two kids, either Julia or Alex, or both, have worked as counselors at the Alaska Center for the Environment's Trailside Discovery Summer Camp. It is adjacent to the area where this girl was attacked. Both of my kids, while leading groups of very young kids around the camp's activity area near Campbell Creek, have had Brown bear and Black bear encounters. Alex once had two in a single day. They had been well trained in how to best deal with this.
I spoke with them after their day's work was done, and they had returned home to the Valley. What they described was the complex reality of working with little kids in situations where these very large, unpredictable animals might not react by anybody's book. Their descriptions of their efforts to shield the little kids and to clear the area of any other groups that they found nearby filled me with admiration.
This afternoon, Alex, along with two friends, went plummeting down the 16-mile ski run at Hatchers Pass on their mountain bikes. In my mind, it was far, far more dangerous than the race this young woman was in.
We live in Alaska. Bears do too. I've encountered many, lost a friend directly, and another - Ron Cole - indirectly, to bear attacks. There are almost as many bears in Alaska as there are people in the Mat-Su Borough. Every day in the summer, there is some group of Cub Scouts, church club youth, maybe even a quilting club, out there in an area where bears can just show up.
The middle of the night here in summer isn't like the middle of the night elsewhere. This bike race is a fairly longstanding event, and the young woman was doing what she and her family hoped would help her develop into a better person.
Let us hope she will continue to be able to do just that.