I am appalled that the lawyers representing the Pittsburgh Zoo have filed a cross-claim against the family of the 2-year-old boy who lost his life there last November when he fell into the pit of African painted dogs and was mauled to death by them. It was distressing to me to see the Sept. 11 Post-Gazette headline "Zoo Blames Mother for Boy's Fatal Mauling." The article reveals the zoo's statement that this child's death was "caused solely by the carelessness, negligence and/or recklessness of Elizabeth Derkosh."
I would like to quote Darcie Sims, a prominent author and grief educator, herself a bereaved mother. She writes about the normal process of grief, which includes "if onlies," which, she says, are "perhaps the most difficult words to live with in the human experience. If onlies are always accompanied by the worst feeling of all -- guilt."
I am sure that Mrs. Derkosh's first "if only" was "If only we had not gone to the zoo!" If onlies are usually not rational thoughts. That family probably planned that day to share with their son, Maddox, all the interesting animals at the zoo. How many other parents lifted their young children on that ledge so they could see better? And the Derkosh attorney, Robert Mongeluzzi, reveals that zoo employees had previously warned of the potential danger of the viewing platform.
Assessing blame on a grieving mother is cruel and unjust. Grief is not about money but should be about compassion and understanding the depths of the pain of losing a child in a horrific accident that probably could have been prevented by better safeguards and attention of the zoo administration. Whatever the legal outcome that will be settled in court, it will end. But the grief of the Derkosh family will never end.
LILLIAN L. MEYERS