a lost zillennial

A mother died today

TW: This is how I'm coping with a tragedy that happened today in my area. If you don't want to read about trauma, traffic accidents, crime, guns, or death, stop here.


I didn't even know her.

But after my mom called me to tell me that someone she knew died in front of my apartment complex, I couldn't stop sobbing.

I haven't mentioned it yet, but I am a journalist. I cover a variety of things in my area and, when extra hands are needed, that often includes "breaking news" — shootings, burglary, fatal traffic accidents.

This morning, I got a press release about the very same accident my mom was telling me about. I clicked over to it as she told me what happened. When I got the release, I didn't even spend 10 seconds thinking about it. I saw it, thought, "That's not my beat," and moved on. I didn't notice it was on the same street on which I live. The TV cameras were filming in the turn lane to enter the complex that I use every day.

I typically pride myself on the fact that I enjoy covering breaking news. For many journalists, the adrenaline of being the first to get a story up is a great feeling. A fleeting feeling, but nonetheless, a good one.

That's not to say I haven't gone out of my way to express reverence for the victims I write about in my stories. I try to imagine what the families would think about my reporting. I know I'm relying on the account of some random cop who scribbled a quick report. I picture what the incident looked like.

Last weekend, a dead man was found shot in his car. How did he get there? Was he shot in his car? Why was he shot? Did he owe someone a debt? Did he piss someone off? Did he take it just a little too far?

I'll tell the story of what happened today based on the third-hand account my mom told me. I apologize in advance for my journalist / cop talk.

When my mom called me, I could tell she had been crying. She explained a few of my sister's friends and some others, including one of their parents, were packed into a car headed somewhere for their last week of break.

Something fell out of or off of the car, so they pulled over, and a few people started trying to pick it up out of the road.

The police report tells us that a couple 911 calls happened: first, to inform authorities that a woman was in the road trying to get luggage; the second, from a different caller several minutes later, told them that woman had been hit. She was pronounced dead on scene.

What I got caught up thinking about is these girls, still in high school, watched their mom be struck and killed. Nobody of any age is "ready" to see that. But certainly not children.

I got caught up thinking about what they must be going through. I thought of my sister. I thought of my mom. I thought of my dad. I didn't so much think about myself, other than how I would feel if that had happened to my family. When I hung up, I started crying.

I wonder if they're thinking about their destination anymore. If there was a younger kid in that car who doesn't quite understand the gravity of what just happened. I wonder if those kids will be back at school next week, seeking some sort of stability. I wonder if they're worried about money, or if they'll get their money back from the hotel and the theme park and whatever else they planned to do. I wonder if they'll care enough to ask. I wonder if they're at home, or the police department, or somewhere else. I wonder if they feel the strength to walk in their home without her. I wonder if they'll read the articles about it.

Most importantly, what struck me was that this stupid press release — 111 words — meant nothing to me at the time. All of those stupid press releases really, at the end of the day, meant nothing. I can do my best to put myself in the loved one's shoes, but without a face, without a story, without a connection, it's all moot. The press release didn't mention anything about where they were headed.

When I leave my apartment today, I will pass the place a mother died today. I don't even know her name or her face. Just that my sister knows these kids who had this mother. I might see blood staining the road. Or maybe the firetruck that blocked drivers' views from seeing the tragedy washed it away.

I might buy flowers to place where she died, although I'm not exactly sure of where it happened. I just know I see flowers on the side of the road where people died. It feels like the right, albeit silly, thing to do.

I have to go to a city meeting this afternoon. I wonder if they'll bring her up. I wonder if I'll cry. If they don't bring her up, I wonder if I'll cry anyway. Maybe I won't shed any more tears over this. I can still feel them dried on my face.

I feel better, but I feel guilty that I feel better. Writing a dumb blog post in the aftermath won't make those girls feel better. I'm not sure I deserved to feel that upset about it. But I needed to write, and the breaking news reporter had that story handled within mere minutes of receiving the press release. Not that I could have written any of this.