My husband, Bill and I were blessed to be parents one time in this life. We adopted a baby boy, and named him Michael.
Our joy was limited to only 12-1/2 years. Michael died April 27, 1993 from asphyxiation on top of an oil storage tank when his head became stuck in the "Thief Hatch".
As grieving parents, we tried to fathom how this happened. To lose the most precious child one could imagine, we struggled with what we could have done differently. A counselor from Michael's school came by the house a few days after Michael's death and shared some simple, but profound thoughts and beliefs that he had developed after losing his daughter two years previously in an auto accident.
These statements are simple truths that we like to share with others who may struggle with similar loss:
- Never allow anyone to tell you how to suffer
- No two people suffer grief the same
One thing Bill and I had in common during this period is the feeling that more could be done to keep our children safe. We felt an urgency to make a difference so other parents would not experience the pain and grief that we were suffering. We began writing letters to the President of the United States, State Senators, our House of Representatives and anyone else for whom we could get an address or thought might assist in implementing additional safety measures around oil field equipment.
While we received some acknowledgements, a call from our Congressman, Frank Davis, began the journey of a possible legislative impact. Representative Frank Davis introduced HB 2571 in 1994 and we worked on it the entire year, meeting with any representative and/or staff member who would talk with us while the Bill was traveling back and forth with changes. In the meantime, my husband, Bill, underwent surgery to remove a cancerous right kidney. Three weeks after his surgery, we were back at the capital-lobbying. The bill passed and was implemented in 1995. Feeling urgency in our mission, we wrote letters to oil companies, urging them to comply before the deadlines. Upon completion of this task, we realized that the largest hurdle to the safety of children in our communities was education on the danger of oil and gas equipment.
We began to contact different organizations to encourage safety education as it pertains to oilfield equipment. We began participating in farm safety, day camps, community safety fairs, Churches and schools to share our message.
The wound created through the death of a child is never healed. But in coping with our grief, our energy was spent in the effort to heighten awareness in various communities to keep our children safe. This has not been an easy task; the ground to cover is vast and we are but two people. We approached Safe Kids and found a powerful ally. They were instrumental in putting us in contact with schools to share information and promote a safety video that was produced by Oklahoma Energy Resource Board. Safe Kids has been supportive in our effort for several years; this past year, they added to their wesite, a web-based coloring activity book that we designed with help from our friends and relatives, "Michael 4 Safety". The activity book provides information for parents and teachers, how they can utilize the material as a teaching tool, it serves to be a fun activity for children (of all ages), and contains a "Safety Promise" that can be signed by a child and their parents.
Bill and I have found working with kids is a rewarding experience, and it drives our effort, Safety is #1 and education is the key to reducing the loss of our children through accidental deaths.
Through our ideas, the creative skills and abilities of family members, friends of our family, and the generosity of organizations placing the information on their websites, you can find the presence of "Michael 4 Safety" growing. We will continue to foster this growth.
Bill and Ellen Jenkins - Founders