When Tragedy Strikes: Do You Tune In or Tune Out?Monica Bielanko
When Jared Loughner entered a Tucson, Arizona, shopping center and shot and killed six people, including a then congresswoman, Gabby Giffords and a 9-year-old girl, I couldn’t get enough news. I was glued to coverage of the event. CNN on the tube for hours upon hours. Staying tuned even when it was obvious they had run out of information and were tap dancing until they could dig up more details. I googled Loughner, read the accounts of his life from acquaintances and wondered what could cause someone to do something so horrible.
I camped in front of my television in a similar fashion when James Holmes shot up a movie theater in Colorado.
But this time, for the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, I just cannot do it.
And yet, a part of me feels obligated to learn what happened, to read and listen to every single detail, that my knowledge of what happened will somehow pay tribute to the lives lost.
It almost feels disrespectful to not be learning as much as I can about the tragedy. Am I sticking my head in the sand and pretending it didn’t happen? No. But I’m also not allowing myself to fully acknowledge the event and that leaves me feeling conflicted.
After working in a newsroom for more than a decade I know that the stories involving children don’t ever leave. Once learned, the details of horrific crimes take on a life of their own and leave me almost unable to function. Not only that, but the terror of losing my own children becomes so overwhelming that I can’t sleep and find myself obsessing over death. But maybe that’s how it should be? Not the obsession with death, exactly, but the sacred knowledge of someone else’s life and death and the realization that life is fleeting and to make the most of it while I can.
And yet I’m still torn over my reaction to the shooting. While I know what happened in Newtown, I haven’t allowed myself to click the links of certain internet articles and I’ve been turning off the television when it becomes overwhelming. And that feels wrong. I feel as if I owe it to those who died to learn what happened. But, in the end, what will that really accomplish?
In trying to make sense of it all I asked my Facebook friends what their reaction to overwhelming tragedies such as this recent shooting is and here is what they said.
Suzanne says, “I have completely tuned in – and yet, every article I read leaves me sobbing. Holding my six year old son and never wanting to let him go. To be honest, it fries my head. Husband told me to stop reading today when he came home to me red eyed – again. But I need to know.”
Amy tells me, “I’ve turned it off. I know what happened, and that’s all I need to know.”
Much like me, Rebecca says, “I tune out, otherwise I get so overwhelmed I can’t function.”
Stephanie offers some interesting thoughts. “The victims don’t care. Their personal hell is so all consuming-don’t feel guilty for wanting to tune it out. For me-I watch, and read, and bear witness sometimes, but sometimes I don’t- it just depends.”
Wendy watches to help her better parent her children. “I need to know so I can process & help my stepkids prepare themselves in the event of anything similar happening here.”
Kathryn watches so much that she acknowledges it isn’t healthy. “I get obsessed with discovering details about it – finding their Facebook pages, what were they posting, what were their families like, etc. It consumes me and isn’t healthy.”
What about you? How have you coped since news broke about the Sandy Hook shooting? Do you tune in or tune out? Why?
You can also find Monica on her personal blog, The Girl Who.
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