Every time I read about or see a violent crime such as what happened in Newtown it brings to mind horrible images of my past. I have never witnessed a violent crime scene and hope I never will, but still there are always things from our past that come to mind when something horrible happens. Events like Newtown bring back horrific images of my childhood and dealing with an abusive stepfather. But there is one event as an adult that always comes to mind after one of these tragic events.
One hot summer late afternoon day in 2000 I was heading out for a jog. It was 104 degrees and muggy in Dallas on that day. I have done this jog hundreds of times prior to and after that day. Usually, the traffic is horrendous on the major roads, but I rarely see anyone outside. I see no one walking dogs or playing in the parks and there is certainly no one as dumb as me to run in such horrid conditions. On this particular day, however, I would see more people outside than any other hot summer day combined. As I neared a busy intersection I knew something was wrong. I saw dozens of people running down the street. There were obese people running faster me. The event that was unfolding did not discriminate as I saw people of all ages and ethnicities sprinting as fast as they could. As I turned the corner at the intersection I joined them in their stampede. I asked “What are running from?” Nobody answered, but pointed in the direction we were running. Yes, ahead I could see smoke and began to hear the sirens from emergency vehicles.
It was apparent that all these people were running to see a fire. As we got closer, we could no longer move. I was trapped amongst hundreds of people. An apartment building was on fire. It must have been over 115 degrees with all the heat being generated from the combination of people, the blazing fire, and hot summer sun. I retreated my way back through the sweating onlookers and gawkers. Emergency workers and police were trying to get the crowd under control which was preventing them from doing their job. As I backtracked my way home a few people along the way asked me “What is going on?” and “Did anyone die?”
I could not believe what I had just witnessed: Hundreds of people carrying kids and meals going to not only watch a fire, but prevent emergency workers from doing their jobs. It was sad. I purposely did not read the newspaper or watch the news the next few days. I could not bear to see that I was part of a crowd that was complicit in the injury or death of other people. To this day, I do not know if there were any casualties from the fire. However, every time I read or hear about a crime the events and images of this day haunt me.
Americans do rally around people affected by tragedies and are generous to donate money and necessities. However, it seems Americans are obsessed with tragedies and have no problem watching the suffering of others. I do not understand this. This shows people lack compassion and empathy towards other going through trying and difficult times. And the way the media behaves towards those affected by these tragedies only reinforces this fact – because this is what sells papers and gets viewers to watch their programs.
Events like Newtown reminds me how demented as a society we have become. Sometimes I think we are all nearly as guilty as Adam Lanza since we are entertained by the events of Newtown. And this entertainment value, I believe, is a motivating factor behind some of these warped psychopathic killers. Killers are narcissists who enjoy the fame and attention they receive for committing acts of violence. And if we find these tragedies to be entertaining then we are complicit in these crimes.