Sunday, December 09, 2007

Tragedy and Legacy

On Thursday morning I learned that a colleague's house had caught on fire.

It was early in the morning when it happened. He, his wife and their two children living at home were all asleep. It's uncertain whether the smoke alarms went off, or did so and went unnoticed by anyone other than a dog, whose barking wakened my colleague.

By that time the house was engulfed in smoke. His wife was able to scramble out of their bedroom window onto a roof over a porch. He went back to try to reach his son and daughter, but was unable to do so. Finally, almost overcome by smoke, he escaped.

His children did not. Their 11-year-old daughter died on the scene. Their 16-year-old son was rescued, but never regained consciousness. He remained on life-support and passed away yesterday morning. My colleague, who was in critical condition from smoke inhalation and a broken hip, had been in a different hospital, but was moved to the same site as his son just hours before the boy died.

As many of you know, I work for a daily newspaper. We deal with these kinds of stories almost every day of the year. Most of the time we do so with a hard-learned disconnect that allows us to handle the parade of tragedy without it emotionally driving us into the mud. But every now and then something like this happens. A familiar name bores through our shields. It reminds us that we're participants, not just spectators in life.

I've spent a lot of time the past few days watching my own kids. Hugging them a lot. Telling them that I love them. At work, I've noticed everyone is a little more considerate of one another. But shouldn't this be the way it's supposed to be every day? Perhaps that will be the legacy of this awful tragedy.


Natural said...

Sorry to hear about your colleague. Unfortunately it takes something like this for us to remember how blessed we are but over time people seem to forget and go back to their normal behavior. We should always be considerate of one another, always offer hugs and love to the ones that we love, not just when something happens that makes us remember how fortunate we are to be alive.

Erika W. said...

Oh how heartbreaking. :-(

My prayers go to your colleague and their family during this hard time.