Baby Ducks

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Below is an email I just sent to WPXI.com. Today 14 baby ducks were found dead in a reservoir near our home. They have been taken to a vet for autopsies, and the reservoir line has been shut down until further notice. Highland Park Reservoir sits in the middle of Highland Park, and while it serves as a water source for Pittsburgh, it also provides a beautiful, quiet, natural place to walk and hike in the middle of a major metropolitan city:

Dear WPXI,
I’m an 8th grade English teacher with Hopewell Area School District. I just saw your story on Thursday night 5/11/06. I feel sick with guilt. On Sunday I was walking the reservoir and saw those precious baby ducks swimming with their mother. They were so small and it lifted my heart so to see such a sweet, simple sign of Spring.

On my second trip around (I was power walking) I also saw two middle-school-age boys throwing rocks at these baby ducks. It made me sick. I wanted to say something to them, and yet I didn’t. Fear prevented me. Honestly, I was afraid they would turn their rock throwing on me. That is no excuse of course and I can’t stand people who make excuses. I was just too afraid. I was alone and was worried about protecting myself. Now I can’t eat, I can’t sleep because I feel like maybe if I had had the courage to open my mouth, those ducks would still be alive.

Eventually, the mother swam the babies to the middle where they couldn’t be reached by any rocks. I consoled myself with this fact and hoped that someone more courageous, bigger, stronger than me would say something.

I just wanted you to know that maybe they didn’t die because of something in the water, but because of a few young bored people who cannot see the simple beauty of new life, but can only see something to destroy, something to use for target practice. It’s sickening to me. I’ll never forgive myself for not saying anything.

Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help this situation. I plan on joining the Highland Park Association immediately to make sure this sort of thing cannot happen again. I feel very changed by this and don’t know that I will ever be able to forgive myself. But you can rest assured that if this happens again, I’ll be the first one to speak up. If we let ourselves be ruled by fear, what kind of neighborhood are we creating? You know that commercial where the faucet is running but no one turns it off? They only stand around talking about it, wishing someone could do something. Sunday I was one of those people, but as of today, I will be the one who turns the faucet OFF. Maybe there is some solace in that.

Thank you for listening,

I feel just sick to my stomach about this. What a hypocrite I am. All day long I preach to my students that “Apathy is Lethal” and even have a banner up in my room with this quote. I also have the quotes “Constant. Conscious. Compassion.” (Jack Kerouac) and “No Excuses.” (Kyle Maynard).

What’s worse is I lied to my students. An issue about ignoring the obvious, and not speaking up when you need to, came up in class on Monday. I told my students about the ducks, but this time I lied. I told them I *did* speak up. I spinned it around and created a tale that I had WANTED to happen, rather than the pathetic, lame thing that actually happened. And karma paid me back for that lie. They died.

Now, of course I have no way of knowing what really happened to those precious, young creatures. But dammit, when am I going to learn that the truth will set you free? And that apathy, truly is lethal.

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