I was awoken early yesterday morning to the news that someone was murdered down the street from my home. The murder was Lawrence's first of 2003 and certainly the first one on my street that I can remember. This neighborhood typically is quiet with only few car thefts or break-ins. But violence and crime have been spreading outward from downtown Lawrence for many years. It's a shame.
I returned to sleep only to awake to the news of more death. The loss of the space shuttle Columbia and its crew of seven is a national tragedy. I was only three years old when the Challenger exploded during its launch, but I know that the event gripped the nation and was serious enough for people to remember exactly where they were when they heard of the disaster. Even now, people can recall what they were doing on that fateful day in 1986, yet I feel that Columbia's destruction is somehow less important to many today. Flipping through the channels to find more information, I noticed at least one major network showing Saturday morning cartoons even as the other networks were playing and replaying the footage of the shuttle crumbling through the Texas sky.
Perhaps the American public has become desensitized to reports of terrible events since September 11, 2001. Maybe the only way to attract our attention is with bigger and more visible displays of large-scale destruction than the ones we've already seen. I certainly hope that is not the case, but indications show that we as a people are developing a narrower view of the world -- a self-centered view that turns a blind eye toward global crises and even prefers not to examine domestic problems that affect two hundred million of our own neighbors.
I was thinking last night in bed about how horrible the astronauts' death must have been. Knowing that there is no escape from impending incineration and being trapped in a metal shell traveling 12,000 miles per hour toward earth must be absolutely frightening. Although the astronauts thoroughly understand the risks of space flight, I don't think many people are prepared to face such a demise.