Column: Finding words for tragedy


    By Tiffany Lewis

    In journalism, there is never a moment of silence.

    While the rest of the world pauses in horror, we in the media scramble about, wondering how to put these events into words and pictures. We know, instinctively, that what we present and how will impact the rest of our lives.

    Doctors, paramedics, blood donors! In moments of crisis, no one seems to call for writers, to stop the blood, ease the pain, sort through the wreckage. We wonder for moments if we”ve gone into the wrong profession.

    But the morning after, when the dust has settled and wounds have been bound, people will pick up papers and want to know why. They will search for the words they can”t put down themselves. Ours is a poultice of a different kind.

    CNN blasts in our ears and we watch, again and again, the buildings sliced by airplanes with real live people in them. There are voices in our ears, voices of people who ran from the falling debris, saw people plummet to their deaths, crawled away covered in soot. “It just doesn”t seem real,” they say to us.

    We know what you mean. Today the whole world is pinching itself.

    On a day like Sept. 11, you go outside and expect the sky to be gray. You expect flowers to have wilted and people to be rooted to the spot where they learned of the horror.

    But no. The sun mocks us and the bright flowers hurt our eyes. Laughter seems sacreligious, yet it echoes in the valley. Life goes on, the same, but changed.

    And we journalists don”t have time to feel. We take down quotes like raw, scientific data. We weave them into a prickly rug of facts and description. We write headlines and place photos, meticulously. On this day of chaos, something has to come out perfect.

    We hand over pages for printing and crawl home. It”s late, and the world has gone to bed. We are hungry, but food still seems excessive. We look back on a long, long day. Was it real? Will the paper really say what we told it to say? Will we ever be the same again?

    The answer is yes, and no. Morning comes, and we start again.

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