Who of us can honestly claim never to have done something almost as stupid as the stunt pulled by three young Frankfort men who risked their lives and ended up in police custody at Niagara Falls in New York state over the weekend? Taking idiotic risks is a part of growing up that most survive, somehow.
Adam Jones, Michael Samples and Edward Goins almost didn’t. Lt. Patrick Moriarty of the Niagara Parks Police told State Journal reporter Lauren Hallow the 20-year-olds ventured into a forbidden area at the base of Horseshoe Falls where police had never before had to perform a rescue because most had the good sense to stay away. The Frankfort adventurers apparently misjudged the power of the rapids that could have pulled them under, or knew the risk and decided to take it anyway.
Like many daredevils, perhaps they also did not take into account that public-safety crews would have to put their own lives on the line to get them out of their predicament.
When it was all over, they found themselves handcuffed and led away by police officers to stand before a judge next month on misdemeanor counts. They’re charged with disorderly conduct and reckless endangerment. One is also accused of possession of a controlled substances. That alone was enough in the 1978 movie “Midnight Express” to land an American student in a hellhole of a prison after being caught with hashish while preparing to board an airliner out of Turkey. The character, Billy Hayes, ends up with a life sentence and has to kill a guard to make his escape, having learned, as other young people do in real life, that not every place on this planet is as tolerant of drug trade as America.
If the Frankfort men are convicted of their charges, they could serve 30 days to a year in jail. But with effective legal counsel, our hunch is they’ll get mercy. Some judges can remember when they were young and foolish too, and tend to make allowances in such cases. Not a few of the black-robe class are lucky they didn’t get fitted for orange jumpsuits when they were younger. Lt. Moriarty, the New York police officer, said the Frankfort trio don’t seem to be bad kids. That was our impression, too, from the sheepish look they wore while being escorted from the scene of their indiscretion.
Theirs is an awkward age – too old for juvenile court but old enough to vote and serve in the armed forces while being denied the legal right to buy alcoholic beverages. They’ll come of age on their next birthdays and should try to exercise better judgment than they did at Niagara. Perhaps they’ll have to explain to some future employer how they got arrested for flagrant disregard of their own and others’ safety – a mistake even more reckless than some of their contemporaries make when they spill their guts on Facebook without considering how the dispersal of private information can expose them to public embarrassment or worse.
The best news for family and friends is that no real tragedy occurred. Going to court is no picnic but at least they’re not going home in body bags. They’ve been given an opportunity to contemplate what could have been and to weigh the advisability of making better decisions as they progress into adulthood. They’ve been lucky. Let’s just wish them wisdom in case the luck runs out.