tragedy and pop ups

“AP News Alert” popped up on the screen. I clicked it.

“Baghdad (AP) – 12 dead after suicide bomber rams explosive laden car into a checkpoint.”

If you’ve never used a newsgathering program like ENPS then you may not know how it works. Truthfully, I don’t really know how it works. I just know what it does. It’s somehow connected to newswires from various sources. I build my shows inside the program. Don’t ask me to explain that. It sounds much more complicated than it is. Throughout the day alerts pop up at the top of the screen. Everything from breaking news, to weather updates, to sports scores (hallelujah!).

Most days I ignore the weather updates. I usually click the sports scores. I always read the news alerts. There’s a moment before I click them when I hope I will read something like “San Diego (AP) – Huge impromptu parade breaks out in downtown streets because everyone is having a great day” — I’ve never seen one that said that, or anything close. More times than not they tell me something terrifying happened in another country. I read the suicide bomber alert and caught myself thinking “again, really?”

I clicked out of it.

I paused.

I clicked back in.

“Baghdad (AP) – 12 dead after suicide bomber rams explosive laden car into a checkpoint.”

Twelve people killed and my initial reaction was basically… oh, it happened again.

No, Elizabeth. It’s not just a thing that’s acceptable. It’s not “oh, it happened again.” It’s oh my god, this won’t stop happening. This is every day for an entire slice of the human population. This keeps happening.


I am admittedly very guilty of thinking too long and too hard about nearly everything, but honestly can you imagine a world like this? I mean you — the person reading this who has probably spent most of his life enjoying the comforts of America. Do you know how safe you are most of the time? Daily suicide bombings are not our reality.

We have our tragedies:

A bombing at a marathon in April killed three and injured 264 others. It was horrible. The entire country watched for days while Boston police tried to track down the suspects. We mourned for weeks and rightfully so.

Last December a deranged man, younger than me, marched into Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed twenty children and six teachers. We cried. We questioned it. We got angry that the killer was also dead and we’d never get the answers we deserved. In the news we noted the passing time; one week since the shooting; one month since the shooting; six months since the shooting. The kids started back to school in different buildings. We mourned for months.

In September 2001, you know the story, suicide bombers used four of our airplanes to kill nearly 3,000 of our people. Authorities are still sifting through rubble trying to identify victims whose bodies were never recovered. There are people who don’t have official word they lost a loved one in the 9/11 attacks, they’ve just had to assume it’s true. We mark the anniversary every year.

We know tragedy and we know it as tragedy because it doesn’t happen every day. It’s not our normal. These things are still horrible and scarring. They tear our hearts to pieces. They make us question why we’d even want to live in a world that can be so ugly sometimes. They’re dark and dirty, but they don’t happen every day. We have the luxury of knowing that our tragedies are not regular. They likely won’t happen again tomorrow. We’ll get a reprieve. Maybe it will be six months or, if we’re lucky, longer. It feels disgusting to use the word “luxury” to describe anything as awful as the events listed above… but it’s real and raw.

We are blessed with everyday safety, even if we complain about its inconvenience. We hate taking off our shoes at airports. We hate the body scanners. We curse the TSA for their rules about tiny bottles of shampoo and mouthwash. Whether we agree these things are necessary or not, they’re a direct result of the good intentions of our government – its effort to protect us from repeat attacks.

We argue over guns; who should have access, and who should control the process. We blame gun owners. We blame people who are anti-gun. We blame lack of mental healthcare. We blame video games. We blame parents. We blame drugs. We blame the government. We blame ourselves. We disagree on where the problem starts. We disagree on which measures will protect us from big tragedies, but the point is we are discussing them. These things are an ongoing conversation because people on both sides want us to live in a world that is safe. America, as a whole, wants to keep tragedies… tragic.

So I’m sitting here staring at this news alert that I’ve copied and pasted into this post twice. It’s twelve words long. A twelve word snippet about twelve people who won’t be going home today. Twelve words about twelve people with families and friends like mine.

They will be mourned.

They will be missed.

Their story… will likely be lost in the mix the next couple of days when another scene like the one that took their lives happens again in a nearby town.

I question what I know about my country daily. I question people making decisions in Washington. I wonder how grown-ups can argue like children long enough to shut down the Government. I worry that our political system is irreparably broken, but I know I would never see a news alert about a suicide bombing in this country and think “oh, it happened again.”

(ENPS and my incredible stick figure interpretation of Greenville’s extreme trampoline park)

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