Eighty Lives, One Body

Written with half a thought to the victims of the explosion in China but just today two reporters were shot in the US. All day people on social media and in the news have pawed over the details and images of the killing, which was caught on film. A story for today but a reality for tomorrow. Whatever images you see of the killing, whenever you see them, that tomorrow should be remembered. It certainly will be by the friends, families and witnesses.

What was left? Not much. Amidst the rubble and wreckage the human remains seemed impossibly rare. Eighty had died in the blast but what they were pulling out barely seemed to constitute one real form. The rest, the rescuers guessed, had been reduced to the ash of creation in the force of the explosion. A blessing in some ways. Nothingness would leave abstract certainty for the ones who’d mourn their loss. Better perhaps than the physical certainty of scarred and scorched flesh, inescapably immediate as they lay remains out on fresh blue tarpaulins. There to be catalogued and photographed by silently diligent investigators.

It didn’t matter though. They’d known who was there, they’d known how many had been in the building. The mental count they made as they dug away the detritus was a distraction, nothing more. A way to hold back the truth of what they were doing and what had happened, losing the force of it in minutiae of work. And if in their own minds they found only one scattered body then maybe that was enough? Why seek out the stabbing reality of more when the mournfully assembled remains already gathered made no demands to do so? If the victims didn’t care why should their failed rescuers? And above all who could judge those with their hands steeped in death they hadn’t made for trying to contain it as best they could?

Only the TV cameras, herded back behind lines of blank faced police, craned forward to take in ever more grim evidence of what had happened. Their eyes were glazed ones though, their operators remote at the other end of plastic, glass and circuitry. The luxury of searching without regard for what was found was uniquely theirs and, as the rescuers worked, they could think of no perspective less human or more desirable.

A thousand miles away a thousand more people, caught halfway between humanity and plastic inertia before the screen, craned forward.

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