- The Washington Times - Monday, July 8, 2002

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) Before the September 11 terrorist attacks, the anthrax letters and the steady drumbeat of terror alerts, much of the nation had focused its attention, and fear, on sharks.
"The summer of sharks," as it was dubbed, began on a Panhandle beach in the twilight hours one year ago last weekend, with the dramatic July 6 attack on 8-year-old Jessie Arbogast, whose uncle wrestled a 6-foot bull shark out of the water.
The fascination with Jessie's story and sharks continued for two months, fed by a record string of attacks around the nation, two of them fatal.
"It was one thing after another," said George Burgess, director of the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File. "You couldn't make a made-for-TV movie with all that happening without people saying, 'This isn't real, it's not believable.'"
Jessie was one of 55 victims of unprovoked shark attacks in the United States last year, a new record.
Two were fatal: David Peltier, 10, of Glen Allen, Va., was killed by a shark off Virginia Beach on Sept. 1, and two days later, Sergie Zaloukaev, 28, of Oakton, Va., at Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina.
"Every little shark nip that occurred in Florida, of which we have about 30 every year, suddenly became a big story and was equated with the rather serious incident involving Jessie," Mr. Burgess said. The attack, which nearly drained Jessie of blood and also took a large chunk of his right thigh, left him brain-damaged. He recognizes people, seems alert and smiles, doctors say. But Jessie can't talk, and doctors question whether he will ever regain learning ability.
Jessie's progress has been steady but slow. He can take a few steps with a walker and has limited movement in his reattached arm.


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