No One Was Harmed

January 21 2018

While dri­ving home from work one evening, a broad­cast spoke about a bomb­ing in a volatile part of the world. As we have come to expect, I’m lis­ten­ing for the number of people killed. How big of a blast are we talk­ing? Did 10 people die or 1000? I’m hold­ing my breath lis­ten­ing for a small reason to be relieved.

How­ever, this time some­thing unex­pected hap­pened. Rather than announce a spe­cific number, they said simply, no one was harmed.” This ter­ror­ist had every inten­tion of killing dozens of people, and mirac­u­lously no one lost their life or was injured in the panic.

I take a deep breath and stop at the red light. Turn­ing the radio off plunges me into silence only broken by the slow tick of my blinker.

divider sparkles

In the first week of June 2016, I started my new job as Design Lead at Broad­cat. My first order of busi­ness was to redesign the web­site and a month after I started, a man opened fire on the city of Dallas killing five police offi­cers and inur­ing nine others. 

I was already home after an exhaust­ing day and had melted into my couch for the evening when I found out what was hap­pen­ing five miles away. I didn’t sleep that night, and when I went to work the next day — across the street from the Dallas Police Depart­ment — every­thing felt dif­fer­ent.

For the fam­i­lies of the five men who were killed, their lives would never be the same.

In Decem­ber of 2012, a man brought a gun into Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary and killed 20 chil­dren and sev­eral adults. At the time it was the dead­liest mass shoot­ing in his­tory. Of course, that hell­ish record is now dwarfed by the 2017 Las Vegas shoot­ing which left 58 people dead and 546 injured.

More often than not, the first sen­tence in report­ing these night­mares are the sta­tis­tics about the number of lives lost and injured. With the fre­quency of these reports, I have begun read­ing the num­bers with the same apathy as I read any foot­ball or bas­ket­ball score.

There is no longer a con­sis­tent frame of ref­er­ence of the damage, because time and time again the dead­liest shoot­ing award is handed out to a dif­fer­ent ter­ror­ist.

divider sparkles

The light turns green, and I make my turn under the bridge.

The Dallas Police Depart­ment is right across the street, and as their build­ing dis­ap­pears in the rear view mirror, I think of the five offi­cers who were killed and the nine who were injured. And I real­ize that count­less people were harmed.

We’ve nor­mal­ized these hellscapes so much that it seems we have com­pletely steam­rolled over the ongo­ing stress, PTSD, depres­sion, anx­i­ety, and other dis­or­ders which trau­ma­tize count­less people who encoun­tered the event.

As the bridge fades the light into dark­ness, I wonder what the reporter meant when they said no one was harmed.” Was the reporter declar­ing the plot was unsuc­cess­ful,” by mea­sur­ing the number of lives lost? Can a ter­ror­ist plot be unsuc­cess­ful” even if no one was killed or injured? 

Con­sider more than the straight num­bers. Terror, panic, and fear are far-reach­ing and infect like a dis­ease. As long as we ignore the pain, those who aim to harm us will always suc­ceed.