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Where has common sense gone?

By Gary Richards • May 8, 2019 at 7:00 PM

I love to travel and to visit beautiful and interesting places across the USA and around the world.

You know that by now. I also love to take pictures or even videos of those very places that I visit, lots of them in fact. I like to print out my favorite pictures when I get home for a photo album of that particular trip/event or to send them to good friends who I know are interested and enjoy receiving them. Like so many people today, I also like to share my interesting and fun pictures and videos with others via Facebook, Facebook Messenger or on Instagram.

I even admit that I enjoy taking selfies and do so quite often, both alone and with friends. Taking selfies at spectacular places is easy to do and is extremely effective, especially when I am by myself somewhere or if nobody is nearby to take a photo of my friends and I trying to capture a special moment. And, in my humble opinion, there is nothing wrong with anyone wanting to take unique and amazing photos of themselves or with friends and family members at magnificent places. However, common sense, which seems to be declining these days, should prevail while taking these photos and videos and one should never put themselves or their friends and family members at risk while attempting to take that once in a lifetime photo or video, because it could prove deadly as we have seen in recent weeks right here in the USA.

In the last couple of months, five people, all adults, have paid the ultimate price for trying to get that perfect view, that perfect picture, that cool video or possibly even that amazing selfie of themselves at places where they should not have been in the first place. Three of these people actually fell to their deaths off the edge of the Grand Canyon within a matter of weeks. Then, a college senior fell to her death from a locked bell/clock tower that she illegally climbed at Fordham University in New York City. Then, less than one week after that incident, a 20-year-old college student from Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa, fell to her death after having her picture taken on a long, jagged and narrow cliff called Hawksbill Crag while hiking with friends in Arkansas. When I heard and saw these terrible stories on the evening news in what became weekly news events for a while, I simply couldn't believe what I was hearing. I thought to myself and told my friends, what happened to common sense in this country and what would prompt people to put their lives at risk simply to get that perfect view, to snap that amazing picture, to shoot that cool video or to take that fun selfie of themselves?

Having recently visited and hiked the south rim of the Grand Canyon on New Year's Day, 2018, I remember how amazing the views and vistas were at every twist and turn along the paved walkway that parallels the edge of the Grand Canyon for miles. While I did take my fair share of pictures of the Grand Canyon, including some selfies, I did not, however, walk right up to the edge of the canyon or put my life in jeopardy just to get that perfect view or that award winning picture. I think the problem with so many people today is that they truly believe that nothing terrible like this is ever going to happen to them. But as we can clearly see, terrible accidents like this can and do happen all the time when people make bad decisions and take unnecessary risks simply so they can impress others with their amazing pictures and videos.

The college student at Fordham University in The Bronx was within a few weeks of her graduation. According to the student newspaper, The Observer, climbing the tower there has become a "rite of passage" before graduation. Apparently, the young lady posted a video from the top of the tower with the caption Bell Tower, before she slipped and fell through the tower itself and died. The 20-year-old college student from Briar Cliff University in Iowa was with a group of students from her university when she attempted to pose for a photo on this Arkansas cliff, falling 100 feet to her death. The area is known for being a great place to take a photo, but several people have died in the area in the past few years while hiking there.

So fellow travelers, keep traveling to beautiful and interesting places and keep taking beautiful pictures and interesting videos of the amazing places that you visit. But, please, do not take risks while doing so, because this can be very hazardous to your health and possibly even cost you your life. Remember, your life is worth much more to your friends, family and colleagues when you are here with them than your photos or videos ever will be once you are not.

Gary Richards is a teacher and Norwalk resident who enjoys writing about his travels.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The following are excerpts from a 2017 story published in the Norwalk Reflector.

To those who knew Eric Janssen, it seemed only natural that he became a passionate explorer of urban landscapes with his camera.

"He found beauty in unlikely places," said his sister, Cynthia Vukmer. "Instantly being able to post pictures, I think that really captured his attention and his imagination and his passion."

Janssen's family and friends believe that's what he was doing Monday afternoon when he plunged to his death from a top floor of the LondonHouse hotel in the Loop.

The 44-year-old Memphis resident fell from the 20th floor of the hotel at 85 E. Wacker Drive and landed on a sixth-floor roof around 3:30 p.m., authorities said. The Cook County medical examiner's office said he suffered multiple injuries and ruled his death an accident.

"He died doing what he loved," Vukmer said. “He did that, I do believe he did that."

Janssen had a long career in journalism and was a vice president for the Sandusky Newspaper Group, which owns the Norwalk Reflector and Sandusky Register, as well as other newspapers.

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