Tuesday, February 17, 2009

When News Items Are Within Reach

We all know of the tremendously tragic airline crash that happened last week in the region of Buffalo, New York. It is a horrible news item that just makes peoples' ears and eyes open.
We read about the victims, we read about where they were coming from and where they were going to, we read about their accomplishments and their families and their personal lives.

In their deaths, each one comes alive.

My family and I traveled this past weekend to Buffalo and Niagara Falls, Ontario. It was a long weekend in Ontario -- Family Day on Monday -- a government's excuse to break up a long, dark winter. It was also President's Day in the U.S.

We went for shopping in Buffalo and for waterpark fun in Niagara Falls.

And in spite of the spirited, fun and relaxing reason for this family getaway, it was marked by a harsh type of reality.

We checked in to our Buffalo-area hotel late Sunday afternoon, and I noticed several men in the lobby. Each time we went back down to the lobby for whatever reason, I noticed these men wearing fire and ambulance service jackets. I had a thought surface at the back of my mind, and on Monday morning, when I went to the lobby, that thought was firmed up.

There, in the lobby sitting area, were tables filled with about a dozen people eating breakfast -- most of them wore jackets with American Red Cross identifying them, and there were others with NTSB -- for National Transportation Safety Board -- on their jackets and bags. They were casually eating breakfast and watching the TV screen from time to time. When the news reporter started talking about the memorial services and the counselling services and news items about the airline crash, they were all attentively watching and listening to the TV screen.

I spoke to one of the Red Cross women: "I guess you're here dealing with the horrible crash."

Her: "Yes."

Me: "How far is it from here?"

Her: "About 5 miles."

Me: "It was truly horrible, and must be so difficult dealing with this incident. You must need counselling yourself afterwards."

Her: she laughs and says "You're right...and I'm a mental health worker myself."

I wish her strength and offer up my hope that she will not have to deal with such a tragic ordeal for a long, long time.

While checking out, I spoke to the desk clerk and told her how I noticed all the emergency personnel staying at the hotel. Our hotel was in a semi circle with about 3 other hotels surrounding it. I said, "These hotels must be filled with more of such personnel."

The clerk said yes, then told me that the families of the victims were staying in the hotel across the driveway from ours.

We can choose to listen to news items or we can look away from the TV screen details as they're described and depicted repeatedly. But when you're in the area of such a tragedy and tangible hints of it surround you, you really can't avoid the harsh reality.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends, co-workers and communities of all the victims of Continental Airlines Flight 3407...those on the airplane and the one victim on the ground, in whose home the plane crashed.

May they all rest in peace.