Van Beek: With spring comes rain
This week was the beginning of spring. The column planned was in celebration of the end of a long winter, which was an extension of an incredibly difficult previous year. But, as with every spring, there are thunder clouds, followed by heavy rain, and ending in glorious sunshine.
This week we realized that the clouds are indeed here and quite tumultuous. The rain falling comes in the form of tears shed across this county and state. There were three particularly terrible events that occurred within days of each other that will leave a lasting imprint on the hearts of this valley.
First, Mother Nature delivered another powerful blow, resulting in an additional tragic avalanche loss near Beaver Creek. This season’s total avalanche deaths in Colorado are now at 12. Like the earlier deaths this year from avalanches, it involved an experienced backcountry enthusiast who simply couldn’t predict the unpredictable, and what began as a beautiful excursion was his last.
While we tend to think that these things would never happen to us, we must realize that despite careful preparation, training, and fitness, pushing the limits, while exhilarating, is also quite dangerous. The excitement is part of the reason we live here, but it also comes at a cost, and we never know when that fee will be due.
In a previous column, we covered some basic avalanche safety tips. However, please consider that springtime is filled with lots of changes to snowpack, trails, and weather conditions, some which may come about suddenly and even unseasonably. In determining the risk-reward of an activity, please remember that conditions are in flux, and the resulting surprises may be fatal.
We will miss our beloved community member and our deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of this dear man. Rest in peace.
Second, in addition to our avalanche loss, we also must say goodbye to another neighbor who died by suicide on Tuesday. While Eagle County leads in providing mental health support to our community, there are some we will lose regardless of our efforts to help.
One of our saddest tragedies is losing someone who has determined that, regardless of evidence to the contrary, they just don’t see a way out. When they decide that the pain is so great that they cannot go another day, the decision to end it all becomes greater than the desire to continue living.
As neighbors and friends, we all truly understand that moment when we feel overwhelmed and seemingly unable to get out of a rut that produces a continual level of anxiety and even fear; it can be relentless. It permeates all aspects of life and causes a doubt and insecurity that can become critically harmful.
It often takes a third party to help us to see a path that, for some reason, evades our scope. Once we get past that moment of desperation, we realize that much of our worry was less about existing circumstances and more about our perception of surviving it. The thought of loss produces a level of fear which can influence our perspective, which impacts our judgment. Logic can lose over emotion and drive decisions which we would otherwise never consider.
We have previously listed resources to help provide light needed during our darkest moments. One good place to begin is Eagle Valley Behavioral Health. EVBH even has funding available through Olivia’s Fund so that a lack of money will not be an impediment to seeking help. We all need someone on our team when it looks like we may be losing the game. You are not alone is not just a slogan; we’ve all been there, it’s just a matter of degree.
Third, as if the first two weren’t enough, Colorado experienced another mass shooting, this time in Boulder, where we lost 10 wonderful people. These were neighbors who woke up that morning unaware that they would never make it home that evening.
The loss is almost unbearable, as it sparks tragic memories of past incidents and the faces of those left behind, who, to this day, continue to grieve their loss. The victims’ smiling faces, humorous antics and loving actions will never be felt again, as their last moments were filled with the fear of knowing that it would all end within moments.
The regret of family members that they couldn’t say “I love you” one more time. The suddenness and senselessness of the act is difficult to understand, much less accept. The horror of those who survived but witnessed it all will remain with them forever … the screams, the blood, the terror, is now a permanent part of their existence. We also lost a police officer who made the ultimate sacrifice to save the lives of others.
As we seek reasons for such action, we realize that we cannot truly understand the inexplicable. That is the most frustrating thing as we attempt to “fix the problem” and discover that we cannot always predict another’s behavior and what might trigger such an extreme act of hatred.
Again, we focus on mental health, yet some would say that regardless of resources available, there will always exist those who are simply evil. And, while we cannot yet comment of the suspect’s motives, the degree of devastation exceeds all degrees of reason.
This first week of spring is hopefully the last of the thundershowers before the warmth of hope and joy arrive.
Stay safe and God bless.
James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.