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I was in awe of swim staff the moment I put my toe in the lake at summer camp. I was 10 years old, a fair swimmer, with aspirations of one day becoming good enough to work there as a lifeguard. The swim staff was strict, and often downright mean, but everyone respected the waterfront.
In all my years as a camper, and subsequent years as a lifeguard, I never witnessed a serious water emergency. An impressive feat, considering the thousands of campers, staff and visitors who swam, splashed and played in that upstate New York lake.
While drownings and other horrible accidents are often the result of sheer bad luck, and I am not one to point blame at anyone, I believe the reason my camp had such an impressive record, was because the waterfront staff created a culture of safety.
Though my lifeguard days are behind me, I still use what I learned then to help keep my kids safe now.