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Caroline Lodge

In Ron Rashs novel Saints at the River, numerous heated


debates occur over the final outcome of a tragedy on the Tamassee
River. While wading in the river, the tumultuous rapids claim the life of
a young girl, Ruth Kowalsky, bringing her to rest in a dangerous section
of the river. While her parents want her body recovered, The National
Wild and Scenic Rivers Act prohibits any unnatural occurrences or
developments to the area. Thus, no rescue attempt can occur safely
and legally as the section of the river is too dangerous for any attempt
to occur without the water being diverted. Now a community, family,
environmentalists, the media, and politicians must decide their stance
on the issue as ethics and federal law come into play. Should a
familys grieving warrant an exception to federal law?
One of the most controversial topics displayed throughout the
novel is whether warranting an exception for the Kowalsky family will in
the future lead to more protests for exceptions, thus voiding the rivers
status as a protected scenic river. For years, developers have been
trying to gain access to river land to build on only being turned away
by the federal protection law. Now however, Luke, a local river guide,
his followers, and the entire Oconee county community is worried that
with one exception, many more will follow. Ruths family on the other
hand cannot focus on anything else besides recovering their

daughters remains, which is why the believe politicians should allow


such an exception. Finally, past occurrences trouble the media and
journalists who are supposed to always take a neutral stance. Allen
Hemphill, a South Carolinian journalist who dealt with the death of his
own daughter, can relate to the familys grieving, and although he tries
to eliminate any loyalty to one side, he struggles to disagree with the
parents only wishes. On the other hand, Maggie, a local
photographer, takes a picture that seems to sway many of the publics
views towards the side of the Nowalsky family; however, she grew up
in Oconee county and knows how important it is that the river remains
protected. Her actions thus result in isolation by some of her once
closest friends. All of the groups represented have specific reasons for
choosing their personal and moralistic stance on the issue.
Of the many groups decisions, the most controversial is that of
the politicians. Now, the people who create laws and acts are trying to
dismantle one. While many would disagree with this, I believe that in
this instance it is appropriate for the politicians to suspend the act long
enough to recover the Ruths body. However, it could have been done
much more ethically had the politicians researched and found a way to
please both sides a solution that would allow for a rescue attempt,
yet not harm the river too severely. Had this been done not only would
Ruths family get what they wanted, but the Oconee Community would
be pleased since their river would be unharmed an remain protected.

In conclusion, when deciding a solution to this horrible tragedy,


ethical standards become the main concern. Although many wanted to
do anything and everything possible to recover the remains of Ruth
Kowalski, others argue in favor of the river because of the federal
restrictions and environmental concerns. In the end there is no right or
wrong side, but instead a difficult to decision to be made because
regardless of the ruling their will always be someone who is not
pleased.