Tragedy Porn

This summer I began tearing through the plethora of books I own by female comedians and authors I stocked up on last Spring. In her book ‘Yes Please’, Amy Poelher brought a name to a concept so familiar to me I’ve added it to my vocabulary.

Tragedy porn.

You know when a tragic thing happens, and you become obsessed with reading articles, watching videos, and talking about this horrific event? Most recently, after the Orlando Pulse shooting, I became fixated with finding out if Eddie Justice had survived. The story of him texting his mom while barricaded in the bathroom during the active shooting touched a chord deep in my heart, and for hours after while they identified the victims, I awaited to hear his fate. Sadly he was one of the 49 people killed, and as each new name of identified victims was released, I felt more and more pain for what these people had to experience. My heart goes out to their loved ones, and to the survivors as well. I became engrossed in the stories. I watched a press conference with one of the survivors, who described the events and it only broke my heart further.

Ten years ago I experienced this same phenomenon of tragedy porn, after a shooter entered my school with a semi-automatic gun and opened fire. There was one victim, and 16 or so others were shot. I was in class at the time of the shooting, and a faculty member guided us through a side staircase out through the back of the building. I had no immediate contact with the shooter, I just saw his dead body covered in a yellow body bag in the middle of the street. I’ll let the journalists report on the exact series of events.

What I did do was become obsessed. I watched the SWAT team invade my school on CNN. I read dozens of articles online. I watched even more tribute videos on youtube, set to slow, cry-inducing music, and I sobbed. Sometimes, in these last ten years I would feel this twisted sense of nostalgia, and I would go back to these cry-inducing videos, and I would watch them again, and I would sob.

I can’t explain this phenomenon. I didn’t know that it was an actual thing and that other people experienced it too. I felt such relief when I found out that I wasn’t the only one. I wish I were different, but I can’t promise that when the journalists report on the 10 year anniversary on September 13th I won’t be glued to my computer screen, reading the articles and watching the videos. I’ll try to stay away from the cry-inducing ones though.

I don’t know the right way to pay tribute to Anastasia, the girl who was taken far before her time. I didn’t know her. I think about her a lot as is, probably more than normal, but I can’t speak for anyone else. Her principal from high school spoke after her passing, and said that she always incorporated something pink on her uniform. When we were allowed back to the school some days later most of the attendees donned something pink in tribute, and lined the entrances of the school with pink flowers, pink posters, pink candles… I always liked pink, but I love it even more so now. Maybe semi-subconsciously it makes me think of her, and I find comfort in it.

giphy

It isn’t lost on me that tomorrow is the 15 year anniversary of the terrorist attack of September 11th, and that our neighbours just south of the border will all be in a collective state of mourning and remembrance. This world is so full of horrible things, perhaps I see it more now that I am older, or it is now more than ever. I hope we can find empathy, and love one another. So much of humanity is in distress, and we must find compassion.

Sending all my love,

xo

Ashlinn

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