“Handling Mass Fatalities?

In light of recent events such as floods and stampedes, I have decided to be a little more introspective than usual by divulging a personal quirk of mine—when it comes to natural disasters (or manmade ones) that involve mass fatalities I go out of my way to avoid any news story on the subject. I don’t need to hear the same old stories they use for every event—stories so formulaic that I suspect there is a Microsoft Word patch with a News Story Wizard that only journalists know about.

I’m not the type of person that gets all warm and fuzzy inside because of some pathos-laden feel-good story when I know there are thousands of stories that ended in tragedy preceded by terror the likes of which no living person has ever experienced. Not to say that I sit around and dwell on the tragic outcomes, I just don’t want to be someone that can have a story about one person spared by fate overshadow a story about a thousand who weren’t.

I don’t give a rat’s ass about news stories filled with speculation about the economic impact on the global economy or the impact at the pump or on my wallet. Those issues are going to be what they are going to be. Discussing them is as pointless as two meteorologists arguing about the chance of rain a week from Thursday. There isn’t anything that you or I can do about the price of gas—unless you’ve secretly been sitting on a renewable energy resource waiting for just the right time to unveil it. If you are, I beg you to do so now—before I have to work a homicide where someone is shot while siphoning gas from a neighbor’s car. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.

There is however one aspect of all mass fatality events that I do pay attention to. I don’t even have to read a single article to follow the story—just keep my eye on the current headlines on the main page at Yahoo and sooner of later the body count begins to show up. I don’t follow the body count because of some morbid fascination or because I want to know how this disaster compares to others as though disasters should be compared as if they were major league ballplayers. I follow the body count because I have a professional appreciation for the monumental task facing those who are responsible for handling the fatalities.

In using the phrase “handling the fatalities,? I realize I’ve used the same misleading verbiage that I’ve often criticized the media for using. Many of the news stories in the coming days will genuinely pay tribute to the task of handling the fatalities, but few will discuss the reality of the situation because it’s a sensitive issue for viewers or readers. “Handling the fatalities? is so much more than simply finding them and moving them to an appropriate location. When considering the overall role of the coroners and medical examiners in a mass fatality, the “handling? can appear to be the easiest part.

(To be continued in next post…)


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