OK, 25 Juliet rolling
Posted by episode81 on August 16, 2010
In February, there was a plane crash that took two of my friends. We had many laughs and worked together daily until I left the company, where we met, in 2008. I saw them a few times a year after that. Good people. Nice people. Losing them was awful, but the aftermath was unexpected and truly shocking.
On the day of the crash, I was in shock, and I did what any other English person would do – I had a cup of tea. Two cups later and I was no better. I did what I do when I can’t settle, I went for a walk into downtown Palo Alto.
The crash took out the power in Palo Alto. It was lunchtime, so I went to one of the few places that was open, for a sandwich and coffee brewed on the gas stove. People were talking about the power outage. Well, they weren’t talking, they were complaining. Mainly about the pilot and how it was madness to take off in fog. I am sure that if they knew that I was there, at the very least they would have kept their voices down. He was my friend. He was a great pilot. I have been a passenger in that plane. Pilots take off in fog all the time. It is unreasonable for me to expect people not to speculate but it didn’t make listening to it any easier.
I walked back home, past all the news crews posting stories about the disruption to business. They were prattling on in a fact-vacuum.
Then it got worse. The next day, I walked into town. There he was on the front of every newspaper. It really took my breath away. It is shocking to see a friend’s picture on the front of the paper. The speculation in the articles was deafening. Anybody with an opinion, no matter how offensive and bone-headed, was given a platform.
Then the audio files were published – the last words of the pilot and the sound of the crash.
Yes, I read all the articles and listened to those audio files over and over, so I am part of the problem. That’s not my point.
Here is my point. The constant replaying of video clips, sound files and pictures associated with a tragedy, way after the event, have a tremendous impact on those connected to it. Even those on the edges. I don’t think most people realize that. The constant rewind of the 9/11 videos, the shaky video at the BART station, the wild speculation in the absence of data – the family, friends and onlookers have to relive that terrible moment every time they see it. For those not involved, it means nothing. It is just a news story, illustrated with a familiar image – emotion without consequence.
Going forward, I avoid news articles that wallow in speculation and get overly melodramatic about tragedy. I avoid TV programs that constantly rewind those tragic clips. It is unnecessary and deeply disrespectful to all those connected with the tragedy du jour.
Think about it the next time you see that clip of the BART station or the collapse of the World Trade Center. What about all the people touched by those events? Think about how they feel every time they turn on the TV or open a paper. Imagine watching a TV show months after a tragedy and suddenly there is a picture of your dead family/friend/colleague. Don’t feed the frenzy.
Miss you Doug and Andy. One great pilot, two great engineers, great people.
Miss you Phil.
PS This post deliberately does not use the full names of my friends. I don’t want the Google crowd in here. I don’t want this post to show up in news alerts. This isn’t news.