Do you remember the tiger attack that occurred at the San Francisco Zoo on Christmas Day of 2007? Well, I do. It’s hard for me to forget the media frenzy that ensued following the death of a tiger that I had photographed only a few months earlier. It’s even harder for me to overlook the fact that the murderous feline was shot and killed in front of the Terrace Café, not all that far from the spot where my good friends, Halle and Erik, had tied the knot on Labor Day weekend.
Although this same 350-pound Siberian tiger, Tatiana, had mauled a zookeeper a year before her violent demise, I still felt sorry for her in the aftermath of that horrific event. After all, the subsequent police investigation indicated that the three victims – one of whom died and two of whom were critically injured at the time – had taunted the animal prior to her escape and rampage. True, some experts later accused the San Francisco Zoo of having substandard enclosures, but still, it’s hard to believe that the same lounging tiger I encountered would have attacked those three young men without a reason. And it’s certainly not the first time that careless, ignorant, cruel people have been harmed by a caged animal – nor is it the first time that such an animal has paid the ultimate price.
But, regardless of this horrible event, I still remember my experience at the San Francisco Zoo fondly. Actually, I remember the whole weekend fondly. Dan and I had cut our summertime stay in northern Michigan short in order to head west for the wedding, for which I was happily going to be a bridesmaid. The bride, groom, and most of the wedding party were staying at the Ocean Park Motel, not far from the zoo, where the wedding and reception were set to take place. We arrived on Friday afternoon, checked into the motel, and ate at a Thai restaurant for dinner.
On Saturday morning, Dan and I took a walk along the nearby fog-enshrouded beach, then we headed to Fisherman’s Wharf to watch lounging sea lions and eat lunch with Erik, Halle, and her parents. Later in the afternoon, I attended a brief wedding rehearsal at the zoo, then it was time to get ready for the rehearsal dinner at Ghiradelli Square – which, as I remember correctly, entailed a yummy meal. In fact, there was a lot of eating going on that weekend – and drinking, too.
Sunday, of course, was a frenzy of activity – the bride and bridesmaids getting manicures, fixing hair and make-up, arranging table centerpieces, and donning vibrant dresses that were destined never to be worn again. Following the outdoor wedding, the bridal party endured a rather lengthy photo shoot, then scurried off to enjoy cocktails at the carousel, followed by a tour of the zoo. As usual, the giraffes, gorillas, and chimpanzees were some of my favorite animals to watch. Soon afterward, we headed to the reception in the Great Hall – where we spent hours stuffing our faces, drinking way too much wine, and trying not to fall down on the dance floor. All I can say is thank goodness I brought a change of shoes – how anyone can shimmy and twirl in uncomfortable high heels is beyond me!
Labor Day was all about winding down – a post-hangover brunch, another tour of the zoo (including the adjacent meerkat and prairie dog habitats), more Thai food, and board games with the happy couple. All in all, it was a terrific weekend – filled with fun, laughs, and goofy memories. So, even though something terrible happened at the San Francisco Zoo only a few months later, I’ll always think of that place fondly. It just goes to show you that sometimes it is possible to keep things separated... and not mix the good with the bad.
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