Localized pain.

23 Jun
Photo from AP.

Photo from AP.

News of the WMATA Red Line metro crash yesterday made me stop. I was headed out from the j-o-b when I heard the first bit about the crash. I needed to talk with people. To sit in a neighborhood bar. To be in the company of people who were local and cared, people who knew others connected to this situation. People who would see it/feel it as real and local news.

Now, this may seem like a “duh” statement to some. But I don’t pay attention much to news. Any of it. That’s another story for another day, but the short of it is that I discovered — for myself — a long time ago that news stories had the effect of making me care less, not more, about the barage of human tragedy stories.

red_line_metro crash photoBut this story I felt in a highly local way. I take the Red Line. Often. I’ve been on that line hundreds of times. And in my mind’s eye, I saw the interior image of a car, and the very normal people who ride it, and I imagined the wreck. And it made my heart feel real and open and loving and caring. I could see real people in an imagined picture.

I didn’t have a true neighborhood bar to go to, so I did the next-best thing and headed to the Dobbin Starbucks. I didn’t find my DC-oriented social media posse, whom I knew would be all over the news in the blogs, connecting with friends in DC via twitter, and basically plugged in real-time. But I did see a handful of people I knew, so I had a base of human contact. They weren’t interested so much in the crash, so I went home and watched some news and read some online content, mostly blogs reporting in real time.

I found the blogs, the stories, the small accounts of individual actions most compelling: the man who helped the young girl whose legs were crushed, or the person who gathered passengers’ T-shirts to make tourniquets to stave the blood flow from injured passengers. I found I was less interested in the WMATA director says … , and DC Mayor Fenty says … and WTOP reports … Important, yes. Critical, yes. But my curiosity was much with the people.

That’s what I can identify with the most. That’s where my heart and attention lay. That’s what I wanted to know. How are the people? How did they react? What did this call forth in them? Was their panic? What acts of heroics and courage were displayed? Were people selfish or helpful?

I was comforted by the stories I heard.

Feeling lost now. Not concluded on this whole story. The names of the dead have not been released yet. And while I don’t get any particular sense of foreboding, I can feel this piece of the story is important for my own closure and peace of mind.

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2 Responses to “Localized pain.”

  1. Jen June 23, 2009 at 9:04 am #

    Since I work for the military, we all received calls from our leadership, making sure we were okay. That’s how I found out, which then led me to get online and check the news reports. Tragic. There was a tense moment this morning when we got in and weren’t sure if one of our employees – whom neither of us could reach last night – was okay. Luckily, she was, and we could breathe a sigh of relief. That hits way too close to home. I rarely ever take the Red Line, but I know many friends and colleagues who do. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jessie.

  2. Chris Bachmann June 23, 2009 at 9:12 am #

    Let’s also remember that rail disasters hit the national news because they’re so rare. There are periodic suicides and the like, but even those are fairly rare when we compare it to driving in a car, domestic disputes, guns, etc. We don’t give them much notice because they’re just another part of life that we seem to have become accustomed to, but a train crash is a tragedy. Over 37,000 people died last year from automotive related incidents, but that’s not a statistic that we frequently talk about.

    Let us not forget that every life is precious, but let us also remember that rail is safe, economical, and fairly stress free compared to driving.

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