If you live here in Newfoundland, or even most of the rest of Canada, I probably don’t need to tell you anything about yesterday’s events. For the rest of the world: yesterday a helicopter coming back from one of the oil rigs crashed with 18 people on board. One survivor was rescued, one body was recovered; the other 16 are still missing. There’s a search and rescue operation still ongoing but it’s hard to hold out much hope 24 hours after the crash.
Of course it’s devastating news to everyone around here, even those of us who didn’t know anyone on the helicopter. This is a small enough community that everyone at least knows someone who knew someone … there’s never more than two degrees of separation in St. John’s.
I was close to tears all day yesterday listening to the news … especially in mid-afternoon when the news came out that the two liferafts that had been launched were both found to be empty. Everyone had been hoping there would be survivors in the liferafts, and no more survivors had been seen in the water, so the news that the rafts were empty was very sad.
I know it’s a truism for news reporters but I still can’t fully understand why a tragedy close to home has so much more emotional impact than a tragedy farther away. The previous day’s news was about a school shooting in Germany, with 15 people killed. I’m a mom and a teacher, so school shootings sadden me deeply, yet the deaths in that German school didn’t touch me as much as the deaths in the helicopter crash, even though I didn’t know any of the victims personally in either case.
Why are we wired that way as human beings? Why do 17 deaths offshore here in St. John’s hurt so much more than 15 deaths in Germany … or thousands of deaths in Darfur, or anywhere else? Intellectually I know it’s no different, but somehow it seems so much more immediate and real when it happens in our own community.
I don’t know why that is, and I hope that “close to home” factor doesn’t make me immune or insensitive to tragedies happening elsewhere. All I am sure of is that my thoughts and prayers, like those of all Newfoundlanders today, are with the families of those who were lost in the Cougar crash.