As more details emerge about the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, the coverage becomes harder to watch.
These sorts of stories move so quickly from a sterile “breaking news” alert on ours phones- missing plane, 298 people on board- to something much more raw and personal.
Once the individual stories of those lives that were lost begin to be told, none of us are immune from the pain and suffering such a tragedy brings.
There is the grief we feel for those who have died- for the loss of their lives, their hopes, their dreams.
The sympathy we feel for their parents, their children, their partners, their students, their siblings, their friends.
The collective sadness we as a society feel over the loss of their continuing contributions to the world we all share.
It is overwhelming to consider the impact that the passengers on board who were AIDS researchers had- and would have continued to have- on the health of our population.
And who is to say what incredible things the eight, ten and twelve year old siblings who were traveling with their grandfather would have done or the 25 year old Indiana University student who was working on a research project to help cancer patients and people suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease when she boarded that flight to go on her vacation.
Who is to say?
If you had been on that plane, what would they say about you?
What would your paragraph read?
What would you want it to say?
Several years ago, I went to look at the remnants of a car that had been involved in a horrific accident for a case I was defending. The driver had died within minutes of the crash. I felt a great deal of anxiety as I made my way to the lot where the car was being stored.
Would there be blood? Would there be an odor?
Though I had seen many injured people through the course of my career and visited countless accident sites, I had never actually seen the place where someone died in such an immediate way.
Once I arrived and got over the initial shock of how damaged the vehicle was, I was surprised by what bothered me most– a bag of half eaten potato chips sitting in the cup holder between the front seats.
I could not stop looking at it.
After I left the scene, I never told another soul about that bag of potato chips or how much it impacted me.
I felt silly that something so small and seemingly inconsequential could cause me such angst.
But the truth is, I still think about that bag of potato chips nearly every day.
I think about how the victim’s day had gone prior to the accident-
whether she thought about wearing a new dress but opted to save it for another “more important” day,
whether she had a chance to really talk with her children before putting them on their bus or simply hurried them out the door,
whether she kissed her husband goodbye or bickered with him for leaving his dishes in the sink (again),
whether she talked on the phone with her best friend or let her call go to voice mail thinking she would call her back later,
whether she laughed out loud,
whether she felt guilty for eating that bag of chips,
whether she was happy with the life she had made for herself.
What would your answers be?
What would your paragraph read?
If there is anything to be learned from all the sadness, it is that they are all “important days.”
Don’t waste a single one of them.