Over the course of a lifetime most of us have to face experiences that show us how easily the everyday fabric of life and the world around us can tear.
But sometimes there is an extraordinarily intense concentration of such events in the world outside of our own personal experience. And when this happens we find ourselves staring deeper into that tear in the fabric and contemplating the seeming randomness of tragedies both large and small.
Many of these events, as it happens, are covered by one kind of insurance or another. In some of these cases, that provides a consolation of sorts; in others, it’s almost beside the point.
In the past week there have been a number of events that, while unconnected, show how fragile the ordinariness of life that we take for granted can be.
First, of course, was the unbelievable massacre of some 32 students and faculty members at Virginia Tech by a student who was deeply disturbed.
Granted, after the Columbine High School rampage 8 years ago, it became more difficult to think of a school as the sanctuary it should be. But memories tend to be short and the utter unreality of what happened in that Colorado school faded for many of us. It’s also easy to ascribe the outrageousness of that event to the peculiarities of the 2 students who perpetrated it and then killed themselves.
The killer at Virginia Tech was indiscriminate in his victims. Young and old; male and female; student and faculty. American, European, Asian. It didn’t matter.
But taking into account the 6 degrees of separation that bind us all, it’s hard to believe that each of us does not have a connection, however tenuous, to one of the victims. I know 2 people who had friends or relatives who were shot on the campus. One died; the other, an 18-year-old girl, is in critical condition. Her physical prognosis looks promising, but how long is it going to take her to get over having seen classmates shot in the head?
The second recent event was the car crash that involved New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine and had him seriously fighting for his life for a while.
You have to wonder what, if anything, was going through the governor’s mind as the Chevy Suburban he was being driven in was speeding up the Garden State Parkway at 91 miles per hour with emergency lights going full force. Why wasn’t he wearing a seatbelt?
I know I’m not the only person to find this incomprehensible. All you need to have experienced is an accident or a near-accident to know that being a crash test dummy is not a role for which it takes much talent. In addition, I am appalled at what a terrible example the governor set by not wearing a seatbelt. But perhaps his fateful mishap will help remind others equally non-thinking or hubristic to belt up.
The third event of the last week or so was the great Nor’easter of ’07. Where the heck did this storm come from? In New Jersey we had some 8 inches of rain in a little more than a day!
Here again it’s hard (especially if you’re on the East Coast) not to know someone whose home was flooded or who was forced to evacuate their home as the swollen rivers raged. It’s strange to see pictures of areas that you know well when they are dry but can hardly recognize when they are inundated by water.
The devastation is incredible and the damage will run to hundreds of millions of dollars.
Yes, the world has definitely had better weeks. This should be the time to reflect on what we can do to start sewing back together the torn fabric we call life.
“The killer at Virginia Tech was indiscriminate in his victims. Young and old; male and female; student and faculty. American, European, Asian. It didn’t matter.”