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Tragic News Stories
my life I have had many experiences with the visual media, but the
media that has affected me the most, especially as a child when I was
most vulnerable, are TV news and the newspaper. I learned about the
world and viewed it as all good or all bad by watching the news or
reading the newspaper until I began to realize that its both. My behavior
and moods are affected by my most memorable encounters with TV news
and the newspaper.
My earliest recollection of a news story was when I was barely four years old.
To this day I can still remember vividly my physical and social surroundings
during the event. As I lay on my back in my family room I tossed a rubber ball
up and down as I tried to ignore the boring TV program my father was watching:
the evening news. All of a sudden my curiosity awoke when I heard the newscaster
say the word, "kidnapped." I had never heard this strange word before. "What
does kidnapped mean, daddy?" I casually asked. I knew something was wrong
when he paused, as if he did not want to reply; so I repeated myself. In the
simplest way possible he replied by telling me it is when a stranger takes
It was at that moment that I realized for the first time that the world was
not all good, as I had thought. It was as if I had taken a huge leap up the
stairs of life and was now facing reality. It was only about 5 in the evening,
but at that instant the night sky turned dark and cold. I no longer felt like
an invincible child, safe from all harm. I never saw the picture of the boy
on the news, because I blocked my eyes from seeing his face and having to remember
it forever. As a result of this instance, I became less trusting of strangers,
and less willing to be alone, even if it was only to go to bed for the night.
Also, I would never read articles or watch the news if the story was about
a child that was missing. My favorite childhood TV program was "Punky
Brewster," I think the only episode I missed was when her friend was kidnapped.
Though this early recollection of the child being kidnapped was harmful, there
were news stories that allowed me to grow and dream about in a childhood fantasy
world again. My next recollection of a news event was when I was about five
years old. It was the marriage of Princess Diana and Prince Charles. Their
televised wedding was the first time I had ever watched TV for that long at
one sitting time. Not only did the televised wedding have an impact on me,
but all the events that lead up to this miraculous event. Before I saw their
wedding on TV I had felt sorry for Diana, she seemed like a lost soul. The
press portrayed her just an ordinary kindergarten teacher, until her "prince" rescued
her. I thought about how lucky she was to marry into the royal family. I can
still envision the moment. As I sat on my family room couch with my sister
and the kids next door, I was in awe. I envied Diana and longed to have a life
like hers some day. My eyes widened when I saw her veil; I'd never seen anything
quite that long before. To me it truly was a fairy tale wedding. This televised
imagery allowed me to think that maybe I, too, would someday find my "prince" and
live happily ever after.
I was around the same age when the news events of the kidnapping and the marriage
of Princess Diana and Prince Charles occurred, so they were connected in my
mind. The royal marriage allowed me to view the world to the other extreme:
all good, again.
But, before long, the news showed trauma in the world, again. The Challenger
had exploded. I remember the events of this tragedy very clearly. I was coming
back from gym class in third grade, except something was wrong, there was confusion
and chaos. Something terrible had happened but I did not know what. I recall
one student saying that President Reagan had been shot, but as my class was
lead into the classroom next door, we all were told that the Challenger had
The room was dark and the only light emerged from the television set in the
corner where I gazed at the constant replay of the explosion. As we all gathered
quietly around, it was the first time I felt like an adult. Usually when the
normal school routine is changed and third graders are allowed to watch TV
there is constant talking and restlessness, but not this time. My teacher did
not even have to say, "Be quiet." We knew this was serious and it
was expected we would behave. While I watched news of this dreadful event,
I could not help but think there was hope that the school teacher, Christa
McAuliffe was still alive. There was a parachute that emerged out of the smoky,
gray sky where the Challenger had exploded. I hoped that she was in it.
As the day went on we discovered that there were no survivors. How I felt a
sense of loss even though Christa McAuliffe was not my mother! That year was
the first year my mother had gone back to work as a teacher, and I could not
get over how much my mother resembled Christa McAuliffe. My mind raced--her
daughter was around the same age as myself. I could not comprehend that I would
no longer have my mother alive. How was this girl going to get through this,
The explosion of the Challenger was the first time I had become so absorbed
in a news story. As I raced home from school that afternoon, I could only think
of turning on the TV. I was so interested in the events of this tragedy that
I watched the news coverage all night. This was the first time I had followed
a news story. Before this tragedy, I had never picked up the newspaper, except
to read the comics.
I remember my mother telling me that I will always remember where I was and
how I felt when I found out the Challenger had exploded. She compared it to
the Kennedy assassination. True, I will always remember the atmosphere, but
it will never compare to the impact the explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 had
The bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 occurred when I was ten years old. This was,
again, a time in my life when I was very unsure of the world and its values.
One Syracuse University student from my home town, in upstate New York, had
been aboard the airplane. I can only recall her first name, Suzanne. She was
only twenty-one, which seemed old to me at the time, but, still, I could not
get over the thought that she would never get married, have children and so
on. I remember thinking she was twice as old as I was, and I could not imagine
having already lived half my life by age ten. I stared at her picture in the
newspaper for the next two weeks and thought, how could someone's only motive
in life be to kill innocent victims? I hated the person responsible for this
explosion, along with his country. To this day, every time I fly in a plane
I think of Suzanne.
For the days ahead, I endlessly read stories about Suzanne in the newspaper.
I remember sitting on my kitchen table one evening and reading an article that
one of her friends had written about her. After reading this and other articles
about Suzanne, I felt that I knew her. Though I only knew her by reading articles
in the newspaper, I felt I needed closure from this tragic event.
I had always loved to play with my Barbie dolls and make up creative lives
for them. This night I role-played with my Barbies in a different way. I can
still feel the calm atmosphere as I picked out the most beautiful Barbie clothes
I had. I staged out what Suzanne's life might be like in heaven. I pretended
that fifty years had gone by, and that the friend who had written the article
for that evening's newspaper had died and gone to heaven. There, she met up
with Suzanne, and Suzanne had told her that, yes, she had died at a very young
age but, it was her time. Because there was really no other way to explain
her death, besides believing it was God's will, allowed me to find closure
in her tragic death.
My last news event affected me in a different way from the previous news stories.
Because this event occurred almost ten years after the explosion of Pan Am
flight 103, I have since matured to accept tragedies in the world. This most
recent news event is the death of Princess Diana. I was sitting in my apartment
when a news coverage came on about an accident. I ignored the story, thinking
it was "just another accident." But as the coverage continued it
became apparent that this story was about an important figure. I asked my roommate
if she knew what the story was about. She replied, "Princess Di died." She
had to repeat herself three times because I was sure I was not hearing her
correctly. Was this the same women I had admired as I watched her wedding day?
It was as if time had stood still, for the Princess could not be gone. I was
shocked. I felt sorrow and emptiness that entire Sunday. I kept recalling that
I was out at the bars having a good time when this beautiful, young women was
killed in an automobile accident. To me this event marked yet another path
in my life. Today I feel a sense of loss for the victims of traumas, but I
no longer endlessly dwell on them. I may feel sorrow for the families for a
day or two, but not weeks as I had as a child.
Today, tragic news stories effect me, but not as they did when I was a child.
I will always recall the events stated above, the child who was kidnapped,
the explosion of the Challenger and Pan Am Flight 103, and the marriage of
Princess Diana, for they occurred when I was most vulnerable. But by the time
of my most recent recollection, the death of Princess Diana, I have matured
to know that there is both good and bad in the world and I have learned to
find an even median. I feel sorrow for the victims of tragedies but have learned
to move on. I no longer dwell on the life of each victim endlessly, wondering
and questioning why this tragedy happened.
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