Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire

I agreed to sign up for The Seattle Times again. Three months for $25. I like the Sunday NY Times crossword puzzle, and it's kind of nice to scan through the paper and read local coverage that I don't get online. Plus, it's useful to have discarded newspapers around for kids' craft projects. In other words, I have nothing new to say about newspapers.

Except maybe this. I have a difficult time with the "ignore the elephant in the room" approach to most newspaper reporting.

Here is an online version of the article that suffers from the elephant in the room problem. Unfortunately, I can't find the printed version online that was so maddening, but this one will do.

If you read the article, you'll see that five people were killed in an apartment fire -- a father and four boys between the ages of 2 and 11. The mother survived the fire by running outside.

If you're like me, you want an answer to a question that the reporter ignores. Specifically, did they have renters insurance?

In addition, you may wonder what events could lead to the mother fleeing the house without any of her children. Of course, a reporter has to steer way clear of this, because it reeks of subjective judgment. But a blogger? There's no Lou Grant figure at blogspot.com. The worst thing that can happen to me is having to delete a nasty comment or two by people who don't like the fact that I am calling the woman's behavior into question.

The thing is, I genuinely wonder how she could leave her kids behind, and that's all I could think of while reading the article. Perhaps she was groggy and thought she was the last one in the apartment. Perhaps she was overcome with sheer terror, the kind I've never experienced, and fled without control of her senses. Perhaps when she breathed in the smoke, her only thought was to get away, with no care for anyone else. Perhaps she ran out to get help, and then it was too late to go back.

My assumption is that if my house were on fire, and I saw flames and inhaled hot smoke, the first thing I would do, apart from grabbing my iPad, would be to run to the kids' room, pick them up, and drag them out. I assume I would run through blinding flames to get to the kids. I don't have this same assumption about my actions in battle or under fire. In fact, I suspect that I'd be capable of great cowardice in war. But if my children were caught in a fire? I assume that nothing could stop me from rushing toward them. My actions would be beyond heroism and cowardice. I would simply have no choice in the matter.

But maybe I'm wrong.

I'll bet the poor woman had the exact same assumption. With no concern for her own life, she'd run through the fires of hell to save her babies.

What a perfectly awful experience.