I struggled to get up this morning.
Not because I drank coffee after 3pm the day before. Not because I stayed up late chatting with my partner. Not because there was a work meeting I wanted to avoid. Not even because I was getting up to an alarm with a number four in front of it.
I struggled to get up because I knew that I had to catch a plane today…
News that Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 had disappeared from air traffic control radars began to consume the public’s consciousness on Saturday morning. By the evening, the story was dominating television news coverage and topping every ‘most clicked’ column in the world.
As the weekend stretched on, it became increasingly clear there would be no heroic rescue or happy ending to this story. Whatever caused MH370 to disappear, it was now almost impossible that any of the its 239 passengers and crew would be found alive.
Everyone I interacted with over the course of the weekend was speculating about what might have happened. Other news stories dwarfed in comparison to the monumental, all-consuming horror and intrigue of what had happened to flight MH370.
Was it terrorism? A plane doesn’t just fall out of the sky these days, does it? How could there have been no distress signal? The pilot was so experienced, what could have gone wrong? Don’t we have state-of-the-art GPS something something now? Did you hear about the stolen passports? How strange is it that no debris has been found?
Next, the community’s treatment of the story turned to making personal links with the tragedy. As I chatted with friends and family in hushed pitiful tones reserved only for instances of mass casualty, it seemed that everyone had a story.
Several people laid claim to having flown Malaysia Airlines (unsurprising given they’re one of the world’s larger carriers of commercial passengers). One person had flown that exact route before.
Another knew someone who was supposed to have been on an Air France flight that crashed some years back. Others recounted tales of shocking flights where they’d experienced violent turbulence, loss of cabin pressure and even a lightning strike.
It makes you question why, as human beings, we feel the need to do this: to make some connection with such a terrifying and freakish event. What is it that makes us crave the reflected limelight of tragedy?
My friend and Mamamia columnist, Jessica Rudd argues today in the Fairfax press that perhaps we do so out of empathy. That seeking out some common ground with those who are suffering or have suffered is a very human, even primal, thing to do.
For my part? I’m not so sure.
It is only natural to try and understand what happens in the world around us by finding some link in our own sphere of knowledge. We cannot comprehend things beyond our own experience and so we seek comparison to what we do know, to what has happened to us personally. It is how we come to grips with the sheer scale of the horror. We seek common ground with the victims of the presumed crash of MH370 and their families; so as to make their fear and loss fathomable.