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When Your World Comes Crashing Down

June 28th, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  6 Comments

I can’t get this out of my head. You go to the zoo on a summer afternoon. With your wife and 6-month-old daughter. They stop on the path so you can snap a picture, and a moment later your baby is dead and your wife is permanently hurt.

The aftermath is predictable, this being the litigious, finger-pointing society that it is. There’ll be a lot of trying to blame people who work for the Park or for the zoo, for letting maintenance slide or some such, and whether that’s appropriate or not, we’ll know soon enough. But in any case, outlandish and horrible things like this happen—rarely, but they happen. Bad things. My own family made the same trip to the Central Park Zoo, a month ago, and paused at that same spot (I am fairly sure, from the photos) to admire some tulips and take a picture of our own. [UPDATE: More distressing details in the expanded Times story, here.]

Do you think about such horrible possibilities? I do, probably more than I should. I am a catastrophist by nature (my officemates know this; I often find myself assigned stories about things like earthquakes and gonorrhea-infected waterways). I linger over the feelings inspired by such a monstrous day; what our daily existence would be like afterwards; whether I’d ever be able to live some version of my life again. (Off-the-cuff answers: a whole new kind of horror; a whole new kind of darkness; I’m really not sure, but maybe eventually.) I tell myself I’m bracing for the worst, but really, it’s just introspection, because I really doubt anything prepares a person for that.

Do you think this way? Comments invited.


  1. Eric - BHF says:

    June 28th, 2010at 4:24 pm(#)

    I read about this earlier today, it is very sad. Stories like this make me believe more and more that God is in charge. When you hear stories like this, I think its only natural to imagine yourself in their footsteps, and I think that introspection can be beneficial.

    My wife does this more than me, however. Every time I leave the house she says “please drive carefully” because she is scared of me being killed in an accident.

  2. SA says:

    June 28th, 2010at 5:16 pm(#)

    How heartbreaking for that father/husband and family. Not the type of news one likes to hear, let alone imagine happening to ones’ family.

    I think about this type of situation more than I’d like to. Walking to or from work, I tend to wonder how my husband and 5 month old daughter would get on without me if I were hit and killed by a vehicle. Or what would happen if any of us died in an apartment fire (we don’t live on the ground floor and don’t have ladders). Or, what if, what if, what if…

  3. Kara says:

    June 28th, 2010at 9:39 pm(#)

    Strangely, ever since having a child I’ve developed a sense of invincibility for all of us. Well, except when I’m in a plane, and in that case I’m fairly certain that I’m going down in a ball of flames. Otherwise, I honestly feel like nothing bad will touch us.

    Which absolutely scares me when I read stories such as this one. My husband and I picked up The Times while on vacation this past weekend, and I read this story in disbelief. It is tragic beyond belief, and I honestly can’t imagine how that husband/father is doing at this point. It’s just tragic, and then some.

  4. Amy says:

    June 28th, 2010at 11:54 pm(#)

    This is a horrible story.

    My catastrophic thinking comes and goes. Generally, I try to tamp it down, filling my head with reassuring statistics (that’s why Lenore Skenazy at Free Range Kids is my hero). Lately, though, it’s been flaring up with the birth of our new baby. My husband once suggested it’s a guilt mechanism when I get too happy, which in itself is quite sad.

  5. beta dad says:

    June 29th, 2010at 12:47 am(#)

    When I become anxious about my own family upon hearing stories like this, I am reassured by the knowledge that there ain’t a damn thing I can do to prevent freak accidents. (I also have a theory that all of the wrong turns I have taken and other annoying delays I have caused/encountered have saved me from countless calamities.)


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