I went to the gym during lunch today. The TVs above the treadmills were tuned to noon news broadcasts of the local channels, which were all running a continuous loop of an overhead shot of a traffic crash on Interstate 44 near St. Louis. The crash involved two school buses, a semi-truck and an SUV.
The buses were carrying fifty 8th grade band members to Six Flags. One bus was on top of the semi-truck, and the other bus had collided with it in the rear. Shoved underneath the bus and truck was a mangled hunk of metal, virtually unrecognizable as a vehicle.
The caption under the shot stated that one person had died, but while I was watching it, it was updated to two fatalities. I prayed that it wouldn’t be more.
All I could think about was the families and friends of those students, and anyone who knew someone travelling that stretch of road today, helplessly watching this coverage, not knowing if their loved ones were alive, injured or dead.
An overwhelming wave of sadness and anger went over me. Sadness for the victims and their families, and anger that the media kept showing over and over the aftermath.
I was lucky, I guess, that I never saw the news coverage the day Jessica and Kelli were killed. As word spread and people were told who had died, so many of them said “I saw that on the news!” I was watching a What Not To Wear marathon and bringing Christmas decorations up from the basement. It took me a while before I’d watch WNTW again. I guess by not watching the local channels, I had five more hours where I believed I’d see them again.
As I continued my workout I suddenly felt the urge to cry. I had to take a few deep breaths and I knew I had to stop watching that screen. I tried focusing on the wall, the ESPN coverage of Brett Farve’s latest “will he or won’t he show up for training camp” drama, the digital counter of my treadmill. Nothing worked, my eyes kept going back to that TV and I kept feeling that punch to the gut and pressure in my chest that I felt almost three years ago.
I decided to stop the treadmill and just go in the bathroom and cry and get it over with, but then I found myself increasing the speed and finding my favorite running song, cranking up the volume and channeling that emotion into my running. I ran harder, faster and longer than I have in a while, and damn it felt good, to channel that emotion into something positive, something productive and worthwhile.
As I write this, the latest update is that the none of the students were killed, although many were injured, and that preliminary reports indicate the SUV blew a tire, and the fatalities were in that vehicle. Some of the injured were being airlifted to the hospital near my office, which I passed on my way back to work. I saw the news media trucks in the parking lot and two helicopters circling the helipad. I sent up a prayer for all involved, that God would give them strength.