Monday, April 16, 2007


Screams erupt as shards of hot metal rip into human flesh. Some die so quickly that a scream never leaves their mouths - the grim lethality of the uncaring tool of destruction striking so quickly that their brains never have the chance to tell their mouths to yell in pain and terror.

No, the screams come from those who are spared. Those who are spared from quick death by an accident of feet, inches, or millimeters. Those screaming are the ones who may just live. They will be carrying scars - inside and out - but they will be granted a few more days, or weeks, or years here. They will be able to call parents, brothers and sisters, and friends to say that they are okay. Well, maybe not okay. But they are alive.

The fear born on this one spot - a speck of a spot no different than many other spots - radiates out. Those nearby run for cover, seeking any safety they can find in a world suddenly unsafe.

The word travels farther afield. Something just happened. Something terrible, horrific, heinous. Death is lose and striking people down in less time than a blink.

Cel phones ring.

Those dialing them are calling out for aid. Something terrible has just happened and someone needs to come right away. Right away. Please come fast.

Everything is confusion. Chaos is all around. The order of life has been violently shattered. There is never anything normal about violent death. Or maybe there is and that is what is so frightening. When the thin veneer of control and culture is stripped away so forcefully, can it ever be repaired? The answer is, of course, no. Nothing is ever the same after such a terrible thing.

Farther away, the event is picked up by news outlets. Reports are confused. One person has been killed. No it's 15, 20, 30 dead. People turn from what they've been doing. Where was that? What happened? Why doesn't anyone know anything?

For many, it's just a horrible act. It's terrible and awful, but it's not hitting their lives. But for others, one second has changed everything. The girl with the impertinant smile and quick wit is lying in a pool of blood, her dark hair matted in a congealed puddle of red. The shy boy with the good grades and funny glasses will never worry again about his grades - there are no grades in death. The husband who was just going to work can't console his wife or explain what happened to his children - the life was blasted from him, maybe at the very second he took in a deep breath and marvelled at the wonder of life.

Do those who die so quickly care if the day was sunny or grey? Do they have enough time ask why this has happened to them? Or, is the only word that comes to mind - fuck!

On Saturday, a car bomb exploded in Karbela, Iraq. 50 people were killed. There was no warning, no reason beyond someone's dark and twisted need to destroy. Today, someone took the lives of at least 30 people in Virginia. There was no warning and no reason for this massacre either.

Stop for one minute and ask yourself if either is more horrific than the other. Stop and imagine the terrible way that lives have been shattered. Stop and ask yourself what if it was your family.

Think until the understanding dawns that suffering is the same in Iraq as it is in Virginia. The parents of young people killed in Virginia and the parents of young people in Iraq, or Africa, or anywhere violence strikes, all share the same tears. And then pause and say a prayer for those everywhere who are suffering right now. And say one for yourself too - that you will always remember to have compassion and to feel for everyone.


dbackdad said...

The majority of Americans don't even pause for one second when they hear that 50 have died in Iraq. But they will mourn for weeks over the 30 in Virginia. You hit the nail on the head on this one.

Great job in writing this. I think some of the best and most relevant writing is done in the heat of the moment right after something has happened. It's more visceral and we have feelings in the moment that are hard to recapture when you try to write about it after a few days.

Laura said...

This is why I love coming here. You have a way of saying things that I just can't match. Why is this headline news and the car bombs in Iraq not? Because car bombs in Iraq have become expected, routine. Violence in our culture has also become routine and things like this make me wonder what happened to our humanity that we produce people capable of such things? Are we circling the drain?

Kate said...

Fantastic post, Shawn. Simply fantastic.

Sadie Lou said...

It's so shallow that we can relate better to Americans suffering through violence--we are all of us human. Thanks for reminding me.

tshsmom said...

A very poignant post Shawn! Well done!
I still remember an article I read when I was 14. The article was written by a father as he sat beside his 2 yr old daughter's hospital bed. He didn't know how he would ever explain to her what had happened. Her face had been shredded by a bomb in Northern Ireland. That article made me realize that there is senseless violence all over the world. The loss of a loved one is the same, no matter what language you speak, or the color of your skin. Senseless death isn't a statistic, it's a TRAGEDY!

greatwhitebear said...

Very well said! Since I cannot possibly top what the others have said, I'll leave it right there.