I don’t hate to admit it.

I hugged my boys - and wife - a little harder yesterday.

Why? Isn’t it obvious?

I love them, and I don’t want anything to ever happen to them.

And I especially don’t want anything to happen to them like happened to two Stephenville teens over the past two months.

I hurt for the teens’ parents. I hurt for their families. I hurt for their friends.

What a shame.

Just over a month ago, 16-year-old Courtney Butler was swept away by the rushing water in the Paluxy River in Glen Rose and was discovered dead, to everyone’s chagrin, about 10 miles down river from where officials said she was sucked under.

She had been swimming with friends.

(A state game warden, 28-year-old Ty Patterson, also drowned during the search for her body.)

Then, on Monday, 13-year-old Karen Valdez, who just finished sixth grade at Gilbert Intermediate School in Stephenville, was found dead in the Yampa River in the northwestern part of Colorado.

The accident occurred near Craig, Colo., a town of about 10,000 about 40 miles from Steamboat Springs and in the vicinity of the Colorado and Wyoming border.

Valdez was reportedly visiting with cousins, as well as her aunt and uncle, when the incident occurred.

The local sheriff told reporters that Valdez apparently slipped, slid in a hole, grabbed for a cousin, and then went under.

As Texas Game Warden Maj. Rolly Correa told the media after Courtney Butler’s drowning, the fast-moving waters “make it difficult to escape. Once you get trapped in it you just can’t get out of it.”

What horrible endings to what started out to be fun-filled days for the drowning victims, and the cold, hard facts definitely hit home as my family readies for a trip to Colorado for vacation.

It also prompted me to search the Internet for tips, and there is plenty of advice to be found, such as some from aquatic safety consultant Dr. Dave Smith, commander, USCG (RET).

According to Smith:

“Most people who die in aquatic accidents - boating/swimming - succumb to drowning. Most drownings result from three major factors -inability to swim, effects of relatively cold water, and alcohol.” “Most drownings occur 10 feet or less from safety, and roughly 60 percent of the time another person is both witnessing and in a position to rescue the victim. Unfortunately, would-be rescuers are not aware of the classic signs of drowning.” Signs of drowning include: “(1) Head back, (2) Mouth open, establishing an airway - but not vocalizing, (3) Arms doing an involuntary, above the water, breast stroke, (4) Head bobbing up and down, above then below the surface.”

“Drowning occurs rapidly and soundlessly, averaging 20 seconds in small children and up to a minute in adults,” Smith said in his column.

“To the uninitiated a drowning person’s surface struggle may appear to be playing, clowning or splashing accompanied by lack of requests for help. Simply observing and reacting to the signs of drowning by basic, shore-based reaching or throwing rescues may cancel a needless tragedy.”

I didn’t know Courtney or Karen.

But from what I’ve heard, I would have liked them if I had.

And hopefully something positive will come out of this discussion.

Maybe it will help others re-evaluate and re-realize just how short life is and the importance of the time you spend with your children - before they grow up and are gone.

Enjoy life and hug your kids a little tighter tonight.

Because if you don’t, life may just pass you by.

DOUG MYERS is Managing Editor of the Empire-Tribune. He can be reached at doug.myers@empiretribune.com or (254) 965-3124, ext. 229.