The other night, a local fire station held an open house for kids/parents in the area. With a 2.5 year old son, not attending was not an option. When we arrived, we noticed that most of the activity was right inside the open garage doors of the fire station. So we headed in there. On the floor next to the ambulance were the boots, jackets and helmets that the firefighters wear. There was a woman there talking about them and letting kids try them on. She appeared to either be a firefighter herself, or at least someone who worked at the fire station. So, we went about putting the clothes/boots/ helmet on my son who loved it. The woman watching over the area was laughing as my son was hamming it up some. But then…out of nowhere, came this guy whom I took for an EMT. He offered zero introduction, he just started right in, and when he spoke, he spoke like one of those people who is desperately hoping you’ll say “wow” to whatever they say:
“C2, C3. Vertebrae. Not developed until age 13. Get that helmet off of him. I’m serious, get that helmet off of him right now. There was a 9 year old boy, son of a Fire Chief in Ohio. He was sitting on a riding lawnmower wearing his dad’s fire helmet, turned his head suddenly and ended up falling off the lawnmower. Died. That’s right, died. Why did he die? The weight of the helmet. His C2 and C3 vertebrae weren’t strong enough. Snapped his neck.”
Then, as suddenly as he approached us, he left us to take the other helmets away from other kids in the try-on area – the guy seemed to enjoy being the direct reason kids were suddenly having less fun. My wife and I just looked at each other struggling to believe what we’d just seen. Who just walks up to someone he doesn’t know and tells a horrific story apparently to illustrate a point that could be made by simply saying “that helmet may be a bit heavy for your boy’s neck”? And why was all of this equipment clearly out for kids to try on if it was so, ummm, lethal?
Some moments in life are really odd, and this was one of them.