When a dolphin found its way into the headwaters of the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn last month, his plight touched many. One woman who met him, described him as "the most beautiful creature" she had ever seen.
The debate over whether rescuers should have helped the common dolphin who became trapped in the canal last month, has raged back and forth now for a couple of weeks. Critics across social media have expressed disbelief at the inaction, while rescuers on scene, continue to defend their decision not to intervene.
Rightly or wrongly, it is clear that the sad death of the dolphin touched many hearts -- including that of a local woman, who will never forget her first encounter with a dolphin.
Aida Rodriguez was browsing her Facebook page when she was astonished to learn that there was a live dolphin stuck in the Brooklyn canal. "Not knowing anything about dolphins" she told Digital Journal, she had to rush out and see how he was doing. "I'm praying my heart out'' by this time she said, "please lord let him be okay."
Rodriguez said that when she arrived at the scene, "I leaned over to see, and for the first time saw the most beautiful creature I have ever seen. He was coming up and out the water blowing out air and seemed distressed, but was calmly swimming about.''
There were many people coming and going said Rodriguez, but ''My thoughts at that moment were isn't anyone helping or going to get him out?'' The Brooklyn local said that even though she didn't know anything about dolphins, she knew the dolphin was doomed if he wasn't helped.
Rodriguez affectionately named the dolphin that touched her heart, Brooklyn. "I will never forget him" she said.
"It left me feeling helpless," Rodriguez said, "not being an expert or knowing anything about dolphins, so I asked if there were any rescues on site?" Another bystander responded that there was, but there had been no action since her arrival. Rodriguez believed that the dolphin would be saved and someone was working on it.
As she inched closer to the edge of the canal Rodriguez said, she couldn't help but embrace his beauty. As the crowd willed him on, "He kept getting closer and closer" she said, until "he was within touching distance.''
"A man, an angel if i may call him that actually" the local woman explained, "leaned in enough to have hands on him. We all watched this man caress the now noticeably injured baby." To her, Rodriguez said, the dolphin seemed to embrace his touch.
"He would move sideways and around again for about 10 minutes or so" she said, "and then he would glance up and make eye contact. For me, his eyes seemed to say 'thank you, I needed that.'"
Rodriguez explained that there were no words to describe that moment. She continued, ''I cant speak for anyone else, or what they saw or felt ... or even if they were captured by the presence of his beauty the way that I was, but this was the message I was getting."
As the woman continued to watch, "The dolphin just swam in and out of this dirty contaminated polluted water," she said, "and the longer I stayed, the more I wondered about the rescue and what was taking so long."
When Rodriguez learned that rescuers were going to wait for high tide to see if the dolphin would swim out, she decided to go home and retrieve some warmer clothes. "When I returned, I noticed that everyone had gone and only a TV crew was across the canal." Believing the dolphin was being rescued, Rodriguez leaned over the bridge, only to see the dolphin ''Caught in a corner with a piece of wood a bit over him."
The wood she said, would not allow him to move even though he was shifting back and forth and his tail was flapping as he tried to get out. "I could see him go under water and back up again," Rodriguez said, "he would breathe out that tiny hole in his head and he was trying to get loose and move around, but the wood didn't allow him to."
Rodriguez asked if anyone was going to help the dolphin and a few men offered she said, but a police officer warned everybody that "it was dangerous and illegal to touch a marine mammal." Someone else asked if they could just remove the wood and the officer again declined. "I understood their position" said Rodriguez, ''especially if they are not trained for something like this, but I couldn't grasp why they didn't get this dolphin rescued."
"Two bystanders then appeared with a speaker box" Rodriguez said, "and when they turned it on dolphins sounds came out." The dolphin renewed his effort to escape. "He was trying to live" she said, "he was fighting, but still he couldn't break loose." The dolphin managed to move the wood just enough for him to turnaround a little Rodriguez continued, "but he was still stuck, just banging his head on the rocks, and I pleaded with the officer to help him.''
Rodriguez said she began to lose hope for the dolphin as reporters with their cameras recorded the dolphin and kept attempting to seek answers. "Time was running out'' she explained, "I kept praying to God not to let him die like this.''
At one point the local woman said, "I remember this one cameraman coming by and looking over. I can't remember his exact words, but he said something like ... 'He's stuck and trying to get out, that's messed up, that's crazy, I cant watch this, I have to move, I just cant watch.'"
Officers still refused to let anyone attempt to help the dolphin in case they got hurt, said Rodriguez in disbelief. ''I said the one that's hurt is down there and no one is doing anything about it.'' As reporters continued to try and verify the status of the dolphin, Rodriguez' daughter tried to usher her away. "I think she knew the end had come,'' Rodriguez said, but I wouldn't go until I had found out."
Finally, the Brooklyn woman demanded of another officer, ''Did he pass or not?" Rodriguez said, "I will never forget the look he gave me as he nodded yes." She began to cry. "All I could think about was his face, and this tragic death he shouldn't of endured. If he had been rescued and died at rescue," she continued, she could have lived with that, "but he didn't, he died in these cold, dark waters with no one in sight to help in his last moments."
Aida Rodriguez has affectionately named the dolphin, Brooklyn. And her very first encounter with this cetacean left a profound impact. "Time stood still for me that day," Rodriguez said. "When I think of Brooklyn the dolphin, I recall the most beautiful creature made from the hands of God. It was an honor to meet him," she said.
Rodriguez asked to dedicate this song to Brooklyn.