Posted by: The ocean update | April 30, 2015

Open letter to the Prefect and all the inhabitants of the Réunion Island (France, Indian Ocean)

Talon-BishopApril 30th, 2015 (translated by H. Moracchini Richardot). My daughter, Talon, 22 years old, died in February of a shark attack at the Étang-Salé. The Reunion is regularly shaken by this type of dramas with on top of this, media treatments that can be variable. Today my pain is still huge, and my anger intact. I want to share it. Who was Talon Bishop ? Born September 2, 1992 at the Auchel clinic in the Pas-de-Calais, Talon arrived in this world in emergency, after only seven and a half months of pregnancy I just offered her a new life, to her and her brother Reiss, seven years old, away from the evil dangerous neighbourhoods of South London where I grew up. That day, I also poured a slab in the old farmhouse that I was restoring into a holiday place for children in difficulty in the European suburbs. I have always fought to raise my children, safe and close to nature.

Talon and I were inseparable, but his beautiful childhood within the magnificent property and family company “Le Gite de Flechin” was partially tempered by an irresponsible and mostly absent father. Talon had only two opportunities to contact him. At eight, as she went to visit him in London, a stay during which he threw her favorite shoes in the trash, and the second time as he called her for her sixteenth birthday, although he just didn’t know how old she was …

Before she became bachelor she left a school system that did not suit her, she sought and found her own way. Thanks her character and independence, she succeeded the contest of monitor-educator at the IRTS of Lille, after a rigorous selection retained only 8 between 40 candidates.

Voluntarily staying in metropolitan France, after her family had moved to La Réunion, she overcame the remoteness and difficulties, and found by herself how to finance and complete successfully her professional training. Graduated in June 2014, she was disappointed to find out that she had no right to financial assistance from the State to support her during her search for a job. She said she did not understand how people less than 25 years old could achieve, without help in this transition to professional life. So she decided to look in the direction of La Réunion, and joined the family she was missing so much.

Delighted to be closer to me and her sister, she faced the difficulty to find a job in La Réunion market, but felt in love with the island, that she adored for its particular mix. For the first time in her life, nobody cared about her skin color ! A few days before the accident, I had asked her to consider the possibility of a return to France, because I was worried about her future. She answered “Mom, I’m willing to do anything to stay here, even to change profession and begin a new training in pastry”. The day of the accident, she was with her boyfriend and a group of young and less young people. A girlfriend decided to bring them to the Étang-Salé . As Talon did not have the driver-license, she followed the movement, without nobody, the elder included, thought more about forward. Why ?

Once installed under the Mulla bridge, the two lovers decided to go and soak their feet in the water without nobody trying to dissuade them. Why ? Her companion went back to the beach to look for something. Talon was alone in the water when the attack occurred. She had water up to the waist. Who could believe that such a thing could happen in a 1,5 meters water?

Talon surely made a mistake that day, but above all she had no chance and paid it tragically with her life. In the form of a 3,50 meters shark the nature took violently its rights back, and Human is just nothing against this force. Everybody has its share of responsibility, it is too easy to blame the victims, because they should not have been there. Talon was not surfer, nor zorey, nor famous. She was facing the ocean, an unpredictable element on an island that she did not know. When you’re young, when you don’t necessarily know the concept of the danger of death, when you are not aware, then you think you will live for eternity. Once on this beach of several kilometres of black sand, there is nothing to cut the desire to join this mesmerizing ocean. The tiny warning sign (50cm) shows the importance given by the State to this problem. Discharging this way is inhumane!

Why this cry of anger ?

Because Talon Bishop was not only the fourteenth victim of a shark attack at La Réunion. She was a human being with a personality, a story and she did not deserve what happened to her. A beautiful, brave, intelligent 22 years young woman, who was a little bit lost and so worried about what the future would bring to her that she forgot a few moments that nature is stronger than anything.

My beloved daughter lost her life in a horrible and unimaginable way, but despite all my pain, I can’t blame the sharks.

On the other hand I am outraged with what happened after. The evening of the accident, I had an appointment with friends downtown Saint-Pierre at 08 :00 pm. Upon arrival, my phone began to ring. Shocked to hear the voice of a policeman, I learnt that my daughter had been victim of a shark attack and that I had to go to the Saint-Pierre CHU (University Hospital Center). I had received a last message from Talon at 05:41 pm and I didn’t even know that she would go to the beach. I arrived to the CHU with my friends, shocked, and gave the name of my daughter to the reception desk. The hospital told us to wait outside while we were convinced that this was a simple leg injury. So I told my companion and our daughter to come. We were then asked to meet a psychologist, completely outdated and incompetent towards the situation. I suggested him to go and talk to the people who were present during the attack because they also should be traumatized. More than one hour later, a surgeon and his assistant came who, after have led us in a tiny room, brutally announced us Talon’s death, in the presence of our 10 years youngest daughter … The shock and trauma were amplified by the lack of tact and of humanity from the hospital team. I would have preferred to announce these terrible news in quiet and adequate conditions to my second daughter, but instead, she will remember for the rest of her life her both parents screaming in pain for what seemed to be an eternity. Immediately and without further medical explanations, they brought us to the morgue, opposite the hospital. Without any other psychological or medical follow-up to overcome the emotional charge. Devastated, we were thrown back home after spending several hours with the lifeless body of our beautiful Talon. Once back home, the hospital did not however fail to call us and ask for the retinas of our daughter. I collapsed.

The day after, my companion took care of all administrative procedures, go to the gendarmerie and contact the funeral center. Then my son came in from the metropole. Everything should be done quickly so we went to visit the closest funerals, in La Ravine des Cabris, where a lady without any compassion asked us if we would pay cash. The place is murky, dusty, the walls are covered with fake dirty flowers.

No choice, no condolence, but an overbilling of more than 300 €uros. One takes advantage to earn, even to steal, on death.

Where is the humanity in all this ?

I’m angry with Mankind and with this system that dehumanizes us!

Which lessons should we learn from this tragedy ?

First of all, I don’t want anybody to speak in my name nor in the name of Talon. We love this island, although we have been living here only since a few years. It is a unique place of exceptional beauty, but nature is also full of dangers. It is imperative to face and predict hazards and adapt to the nature that surrounds us rather than willing to control it. The oceans are in bad conditions because of the Mankind and the lack of respect he has for his natural environment. Killing all sharks is not the solution nor our way of conceiving life.

First of all we must interrogate ourselves about the fishing practices. Intensive fishing carried out offshore by many companies, French and others, out of our sight so we can’t ask any questions, is unbalancing the food chain and so the sharks, whales, and dolphins, who become in turn the collateral victims of this fishery devastating the oceanic ecosystem. Local fishermen setting drumlines near bathing areas, increase the possibility that sharks come closer to these becoming regular food sources.

Furthermore many individuals, organizations and companies dump their garbage daily in the nature and more generally all those who regard the ocean as a pantry and a trash can. Also wastewaters are discharged into the sea, specially during cyclone times.

In General, policies and practices in place with the recurrence of sharks attacks are set without consulting experts who are familiar with these issues in other parts of the globe. I am favourable to the preservation of the marine Reserve. But the lack of ability to propose concrete solutions, from awareness of the risks already at school (it’s done for the risks of the road) to real human resources, is revealing a failure to permanently protect our beaches. It is necessary to protect the population and the tourists, sometimes protect them from themselves. The problem trivialization suggests to people, especially to the youth, that nothing can happen.

I would have preferred that my daughter receives a 500 €uros fine because she went into the water in a forbidden swimming area. It is true that we cannot protect all the costs of La Réunion, but secure swimming areas and a real monitoring of beaches could be created, which would also create jobs. About surfing in La Ràunion, it seems that the activity has become too dangerous to be performed at this time. One can’t master a whole ocean just like that! After reflection, I am against intensive fishing of all species, including sharks. I am against the fact that this sharks attacks become a political and racial issue, and that organizations are fighting among themselves rather than find solutions together.

I am opposed that tens of millions of euros be spent inefficiently on this crisis, while La Réunion has other equally important problems to manage : intra-family violence, drugs, unemployment, alcoholism, suicide or despair, plagues that many inhabitants must face daily. Young people in distress, without future or perspective, touch me much more than the fact that one can’t surf in La Réunion. The importance of love, respect of others and of the environment are things I taught my children from their earliest age. I regret that our system doesn’t do the same. We are a mixed family, I am english-creole, my companion is french-vietnamese, I have black and white children, and I found my paradise. I do not want to see it destroyed by politics, profit and inaction. We all must work together to preserve this gift that nature has given to us, the island of La Réunion.

Rest in peace my daughter, with our eternal love.

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