Safety should always be first in dealing with lake

Marquette is recovering from the shock of what is likely the tragic drowning of two people on the shores of our city this week.

Multiple witnesses reportedly watched the two individuals, residents of Iron River, get swallowed up by massive waves at Black Rocks during Tuesday’s historic storm. They have not been seen since, and recovery efforts were hampered by further inclement weather throughout the week.

We offer our deepest condolences to the families that, it appears, have lost loved ones and paid the ultimate price because of this tragedy. We pray for comfort for those who witnessed the terrible incident and for all who have been shaken by it.

We also believe this incident calls on us to do better. It reaffirms the need for residents and visitors alike to adhere to cautions and closures issued by police and public safety officials. Personal responsibility can go a long way in preventing further tragedies from taking place.

Since the inception of the Waterfront Safety Task Force in September 2010, the shoreline of the city of Marquette had no drownings. We believe the task force and the multiple safety steps taken since it started have played a major role in this positive seven-year track record since.

Unfortunately, recent events reveal the need for everyone to increase awareness and improve education around the dangers posed by our beloved but treacherous freshwater sea.

It is possible these visitors to our city may not have had the knowledge and experience to know to take precautions. However, they were not the only ones on the Island at a time when the local authorities had closed it due to the severe and unsafe conditions.

It must be noted that individuals who take the risk of defying such cautions are putting not only themselves in danger, but the brave emergency personnel who are called on to rescue anyone whose life and safety is threatened. These courageous men and women stand ready to sacrifice their lives, but their lives are all the more precious to us for that reason. We must always keep them and their families in mind when faced with the temptation to take undue risks. Our decisions have the potential to affect many more people than just ourselves.

Knowing Gitche Gumee had the power to take down the Edmund Fitzgerald, we would all do well to maintain a healthy distance when admiring her power from the shore, whether we’re taking pictures or we’re just curious to see for ourselves. Seek out and take into strong consideration weather reports and warnings before proceeding.

Our goal in this editorial is not intended to place blame for the tragedy. It is intended to serve as a wake-up call for people to be proactive and take personal responsibility for their actions and potential consequences. Lake Superior is a beautiful lake, but it is also extraordinarily dangerous if not properly respected.

When new students come to Northern Michigan University, President Fritz Erickson talks with them and their parents about the students being “in control.” This includes learning the dangers of Lake Superior for new students, as well as dealing with the issues that come with students leaving home and entering adulthood.

The people that are suspected to have drowned were not NMU students as far as we know, but the message that Erickson gives to NMU students and parents seems relevant.

We appeal to all area residents to take personal responsibility and operate “in control” when making decisions that could put yourself and others in danger during violent weather conditions. We must all put forth greater effort to prevent further injury or loss of life.

As Smokey the Bear says: “Only you can prevent wildfires.” In the same way, we can all commit to taking greater care and responsibility to prevent future drownings on the shores of our cherished and awe-inspiring Lake Superior.