When a really frightening news story breaks like the missing Malaysian jet, or that enormous landslide in Oso, people want to hear every detail.
Not so much to learn what happened, but to try to calculate the odds of it happening to them.
We’re waiting for that one detail that will distance us and tell us we’re safe. If there’s a story about someone stabbed in a bar, for example, you want to know which bar, what time of night, were they drunk – so you can tell yourself, well I never go there, and if I did I’d never behave that way, therefore that will never happen to me.
In most cases you can find that detail that distances you.
But when a passenger jet disappears – a 777 which any of us might fly – what do you tell yourself? You want to think it wasn’t a problem with the plane itself, but that it had something to do with the pilot being Malaysian, because you’re not likely to fly Malaysia Airlines.
But we still don’t know.
Here where I live, seeing the pictures of that mile-wide landslide north of Seattle and 50 homes obliterated in a few seconds on a sunny morning – this didn’t happen in some third-world country, which would let us say, well their building standards are not like ours.
This was not little shanties clinging to hillsides. This was a normal American subdivision on flat ground.
Most of the victims were just at home minding their own business when, without warning, everything went dark.
There are times you look for that detail that tells you you’re safe and you can’t find it. The only explanation you’re left with is that sometimes these things just happen.
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