Yesterday I was doing some editing and talking on the phone, when I was told to look at the news. A man had taken hostages at the Discovery Channel just outside of Washington, DC. There was a gun, and possibly explosives. I got off the phone. I put on CNN. I watched, and then had parenting duties.
I put the television back on a few hours later. It was over. He was dead. The hostages were released. Whether or not he had a family, I don’t know. For them, his death is a tragedy. For those who lived through the afternoon of terror, there will be a slow path to regaining a sense of normalcy, if ever.
Yesterday I read a friend’s writing about her pregnancy; she’s waiting on news. News that everything is alright. She’s scared. A new life hangs in the balance. She asked for prayers, and many of us added to that very private, very particular chorus of entreaties.
Last evening, my son gave me a paper to glance at. As a high school student, gone are the days when the subject matter is straightforward, or something I master from my own school days, or “just life.” But this was of interest – an extensive piece of research in the works, on Vietnam and the news media.
I couldn’t help but read with fascination, finding that I recall those years better than I imagined, a time when images of violence flooded into our living rooms, forming the wake-up call to the horrors of war. Yes, the news reshaped our consciousness. Yes, the media chose words that subtly and powerfully exerted influence. Perhaps one of the side effects of our social media age is a lessening of the political power that broadcast news wielded in those days. On the other hand, it was impossible to pretend that unspeakable acts were anything but real.
I am not here to debate the merits of war. Of so-called righteous wars and those which we – or the pundits – may deem otherwise.
I am not here to debate media coverage and influence.
I am reflecting on my own history, and yesterday, which is already history. I am reflecting on tragedy that hits on a massive scale and is too immense for us to fully comprehend. When loss occurs in small numbers, or affects those we love, it’s another matter.
This morning I read an email from a blogging friend. Her ex, who remained an honorable and good co-parent to their children, was struck by a vehicle while bicycling. He passed away.
I do not know him. I know her only through blogging. I cannot begin to fathom the complex road she will need to navigate in these next weeks, months, and years. This is tragedy. For her, for her family, for his family, for their friends and colleagues.
This morning, I can’t help but remember the suddenness of my father’s death, the fact of feeling the impact of the crash when it happened – a car accident – a hundred miles away. And then the phone call, some time afterward, that he was dead. He was there, and then he was gone. He was my “good” parent – the one who loved me unconditionally, the one I’d only gotten to know in the past few years, the one who had righted my world, briefly, in adulthood.
News. I am thinking about news. I am thinking about those good men and good women who are taken from us by natural disaster, by unexpected tragedy, by violence, by accident. I am thinking of those lives that have only begun to form, by the parents who want them with their whole hearts, who love them even before they have a name, or a tiny hand with fingers to wrap around our own.
I will drive with my son to school in a few minutes, grateful that he is there beside me. Then there are errands, there are phone calls, there are some tasks for a friend. And processing this news – all this news – and my own memories. Personal tragedies, near tragedies. The inexplicable loss and pain for some, and life as usual for others.
I find no sense in it. I only wish I could.