I have had a hard time thinking about what all went down at my home zoo the other weekend.  I think I’ve had an even harder time seeing what everyone has been saying and how everyone has been judging and blaming during this whole ordeal.  I am really struggling with this whole new “social media” world we live in.

The Cincinnati Zoo has had a HUGE impact on my life.  Growing up in Cincinnati this was (and is) my zoo.  We went there for day camps, picnics with the cousins, and of course for their annual Festival of Lights.  It’s a great place and everyone I have ever encountered who works there has always been a class act.  I even refer to myself as a “zoo snob” from time to time because I grew up thinking all zoos were like this one… well, guess what, turns out they are not!  We have a local zoo, it’s good too, but it doesn’t even hold a candle to the Cincinnati Zoo and its exhibits.

I always felt safe at the zoo also; well as a child that is.  The only time I didn’t feel safe was when I went as a mom, rode the train that I have ridden 1,000 times and realized there is no safety restraint holding in my kid and me as we rode over top of the exhibits.  I’m still amazed by this and how it never bothered me before… I digress…

I was on my way to Cincinnati for a week with family when I read about the incident.  I couldn’t believe what I was reading.  First of all that it happened there, second of all that it was in an exhibit I know and love, and third of all how there was already so much blame and shame being tossed around.  This clearly is a hot button (as it should be to a point) and clearly everyone and their brother decided to anonymously comment anything that was on their minds.  Did I judge someone I didn’t know for a hot minute?  Yes, in my head.  Did I then feel terrible for thinking this not knowing anything about the mom, the son, and the entire situation?  You BET I did.

I keep thinking about that mom and how within a moment her entire world changed.  I keep thinking about the 10 agonizing minutes she had to watch her son from a distance that she couldn’t get to him and hear his cries for help.  I can’t even go there.  Seriously, I have no idea how she even managed to keep it together enough to be present and in the moment.

I keep thinking about the boy.  He’s a little younger than my daughter and he didn’t know what he was getting into.  He didn’t expect to be face to face with a gorilla, that’s for sure.  He didn’t know a gorilla (even in protection mode or not) is at least 6 to 15 times stronger than an average man(depending who you ask).  Have you seen a gorilla break a coconut with its bare hands?!  He didn’t know he would scare the gorilla when he cried and that the gorilla would react to the screaming from everyone watching.  This was probably the first time in his life when he called for help that no one was able to help him.  I can’t imagine.

I keep thinking about the people watching.  Did anyone stop to think about how many lives were changed from one small accident?  (Yes, I said accident.)  How many moms and dads had to shield their kids’ eyes and ears from the exhibit because they didn’t know what was going to happen?  How many moms and dads contemplated jumping into the exhibit to help the boy and knew they couldn’t?  How many kids still are asking hard questions that there really isn’t a good answer to?  How many people heard the gunshot that ended the gorilla’s life?  There are so many things that happened and changed lives from this one moment.

I keep thinking about the person who has the job to protect human life at the zoo and who had to make the tough call to save a child.  I have a feeling this decision, even though it had to be made, is weighing heavily on his mind.  What about the zoo keepers who had to mourn a gorilla they cared for day in and day out?

It’s just a mess.  What makes it so much worse to me is that there are people who are still angry at the mom, the kid, and the zoo.  Anyone could have been that mom… I’m so uptight (it’s a problem I am working on), and I know even though I may or may not own a backpack leash, that my kids could be like any other kid and get away when I turn my back for a moment.  I could have been that mom who heard a child was in the exhibit and had to look around to see if she had all her kids nearby.  I am guessing a lot of moms who were there that day had a terrible feeling when they heard there was a kid with the gorillas since they had to count heads and make sure it wasn’t one of their own.

Let’s stop judging so much and start thinking of others.  This was a tough incident and I don’t think picketing and scaring more children on their way into a zoo is a good way to remember a gorilla’s life.  If the mom of the boy happens to read this she needs to know there are great people in Cincinnati and who are from Cincinnati who get it… it’s not your fault and I hope your son is able to move forward past this awful moment.  I hope he is young enough to not let this incident change him like it would any grown adult who might have been in his place.

More love, less judging.  I’m still a Cincinnati girl at heart!!