I’ve been watching local media coverage of the nightclub disaster in Rhode Island. RI being as small as it is is like a suburb of Massachusetts, so anything that happens there is like something happening in the neighborhood.
I’ve watched the TV footage of the fire over and over. It’s amazing the immediacy of TV, that it can be everywhere and that you can not only see the aftermath of a disaster but be in the middle of it. I think the very first time I realized that was when Reagan was shot. I watched it on the TV news that afternoon over and over. But it was even more immediate as I watched the World Trade Center burn and collapse. I stood in my office, yelling at the TV, “No, dammit!”, with the sure knowledge that at that very moment thousands of people were dying.
Is such news reporting a blessing or a curse? As a nation we certainly seek it out. At every tragedy we wait for the footage we know is coming. Even if it’s grainy and far away and seconds long, like the Space Shuttle disintegrating, we’ll watch it over and over again. What is it in us that wants to see, that slows down at accident scenes, and peers transfixed at the scene of a hundred people about to die?