Here’s my candidate for Obvious Statement of the Year: Yesterday, it kind of sucked.
I got up, a little earlier than usual, turned on the TV because that’s just what I do in the morning, and flipped it to the local news. First story: a double homicide in Davis, which is about 10 miles from here. Some assmunch killed a couple of elderly people, God only knows why. Second story: motorcyclist hit a school bus and died. They didn’t know why. It could have been inattention, could have been the light blinding the rider; maybe he sneezed and lost control. Doesn’t really matter; he’s gone.
I’d been awake for all of fifteen minutes, and the news of the day had already tinged the color of the glasses through which I was looking at the day. Fifteen minutes into my day and I was already thinking about lost souls, and feeling for the people who loved them, left behind and wondering why.
The TV stayed on, droning in the background as I checked email, read the comics online, poked about Facebook. One news program ended, I changed the channel and waited for the next, knowing what the stop stories would be. I surfed Fark, then opened a manuscript I’ve been playing with, and ignored the TV while I worked; I was waiting for a weather report, just wanting to hear when the predicted horrible winds were supposed to hit.
I only half listened to the beginning of the noon news, because I knew what they would be talking about. I kept a sliver of attention on it, wondering if they had anything new to say—they didn’t—and waited for the weather guy.
|From ABC News|
Then ten minutes into the news, someone tried to blow up the Boston Marathon, and all I could do was sit there and watch, all while keeping Facebook running on my laptop.
There really is something cathartic about being able to connect with dozens of other people while something so big unfolds. I think the reality of how social media can keep us connected during crisis really occurred to me during the Japanese Tsunami a couple years ago, and it was only reaffirmed yesterday.
What really stuck out to me was how the major online players stepped up to help in ways they could. Google reactivated their People Finder. Boston.com became a helpline for runners stuck in Boston, as locals posted info about space they had in their homes, beds open to whomever needed one.
It reminded me a bit of the 1997 flooding in Grand Forks, ND, when news anchors stayed on the air, sandbagged into their newsroom, reading off names and phone numbers of people unaffected by the flood, who had safe places and were willing to take people in for however long needed.
We’re more connected now; in 1997 you really needed access to a TV to get that information. Today, you only needed a cell phone with Internet access.
Hell, in 2001, 9/11, the news was coated in the agony of people looking for loved ones, with little way of finding them easily. Yesterday text messages flew fast: I’m fine, we’re fine, we’re out of the area, we’re on our way home.
We’re now connected in ways we probably couldn’t have conceived of just a decade ago. Sometimes it’s annoying—there are times when we just want to shut down and not be available—but times like these, it’s like holding an electronic miracle in your hand.
That didn’t diminish the horror of what happened; with so many unanswered questions, nothing can. Three people, including a child, are dead and hundreds of others were hurt, many critically.
Nothing diminishes that.
But being able to touch base with other people, having others to talk to while the horror unfolded…it helped. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt like that. I’m sure I’m not the only one who remembered sitting there glued to the TV during the aftermath of 9/11, trying to digest what had happened and wondering what there was that could be done; we had online access, but nothing like we have now. I’m sure I’m not the only one who sat there yesterday, watching, worrying, and feeling grateful that connecting with other people, talking to other people, was as simple as holding a laptop and going to Facebook or Twitter.
After the Spouse Thingy got up and was awake enough, I set the laptop aside, we turned off the TV, and headed out to engage in a bit of real life. News coverage would be there later; I needed a breather from it and from Facebook. My bike has been a bit bitchy lately, and we wanted to take it over to a safe road by Walmart so that I could run it, rev it high (and not bug anyone), and while we were at it, play with a new camera.
After we decided the Bike was running fine and we’d gotten a few pictures, we rode over to Denny’s for an early dinner.
Dinner at Denny’s just what we do on Mondays. Our favorite server works then, so it’s become a thing.
After 9/11 I think I felt a little guilty about engaging in real life for a while; after all, other than some pretty heavy security at the air force base on which we lived, I wasn’t personally, in-my-face, impacted by it. It felt wrong being able to get back to things so fast, when so many people across the country were never going to get back to normal. Not ever.
Lately, though…I think I’ve come to understand that normal has to go on.
Connecting with people online in the face of horror, that’s a new normal.
Soaking in the news, that’s normal.
Going out for a burger on the day you typically go out, that’s normal.
Normal HAS to win.
This is normal. Right?