[Originally published on 5/13/2015]
Last night while waiting on the 9:51 PM SEPTA train to take me home from downtown Philadelphia, I was reading on my iPhone an USA Tech article. Suddenly, a red bar appeared at the top of the screen announcing, ‘BREAKING NEWS: Amtrak Crash in Philadelphia.’ I hesitated to click on it, but when I did no further information was offered.
I purposely avoid watching the nightly news or reading top headlines from newspapers. It’s been at least five years since I’ve been doing this. Hearing how much suffering occurs in the world is all consuming for me. I’m afflicted with sadness for days and distraught with the unanswerable question, ‘Why do we do this to each other?’
Why did you click on it then?
Fair enough question. There were two components that made me do it: the news flash was literally in my lap, that big red bar just begging to be clicked and it was about an Amtrak route I knew well because I had ridden it so many times before. I didn’t learn the details about the derailment and subsequent deaths until this morning when Dan mentioned how shook up he was by it in his morning text. These are the events that jar us from our monotonous routines.
That could have been me! How random and senseless!
But is it really that random? Tracks and trains are made by humans and humans make mistakes. The infrastructure was worn, the equipment old and there was little money and attention given to repair it. Reasons can be extended to the tragedies shown on the nightly news: She made him angry so he strangled her, he didn’t have the money so he shot him dead, the pilot was depressed so he crashed the plane. I believe there’s always a reason, some we may discover others we may never know or be able to comprehend. There’s no point then for me to listen to the insane and nonsensical reasons night after night.
I know how overused the following message is: ‘What a miracle it is to be alive each day’. The phrase is overused because it’s true. There’s a magic about our existence. Rope-like bundles of fibrous tissue called muscles help us move through time and space, skin, eyes and ears allow us to take in the wonders of the physical world and billions of neurons firing at lightning speed process our thoughts and emotions.
I’m saddened then to know that the life magic of those who died last night ended so suddenly. Perhaps a new kind of magic, incomprehensible to the living took place upon their deaths. We’ll never know until we die too. Until then, let’s appreciate our daily miracle.