Thursday, March 18, 2010

Communal Loss: Disconnect and Understanding

Posted by Gavin Vincent

I have a post I'm brainstorming on about a recent State Judiciary vote (707) that I think I'll save for the weekend. I feel a strange need to talk about some of the observations I had about the loss our community is (arguably) dealing with surrounding the death of 13 year old Robert Mitchell. I feel the need to find some relevant sliver of information about the boy, instead of being "some kid", instead of being some uncomfortable reference to gallows humor. I found myself walking down the stairs onto Northapton street as night fell, noting the wet pavement, the broken police tape- slight signs of this somber happening only there for those willing to consider them.

I for one couldn't stop staring out to the street and wondering what the boy's family, the bus driver, the witnesses must be going through. Suffice it to say I didn't feel very celebratory, and the few people who made abstract remarks about the wet street or the situation certianly didn't want to linger on it longer than a moment. Better to talk about sports. And I know people want earnestly to "get back to normal" as quickly as possible in light of such tragedy, but I almost felt as though the entirety of the people I spoke to skipped past the mourning altogether. Considering how fragmented everything I got about young Mr. Mitchell's tragic end was (and how disapointingly detached), I thought I'd take the liberty of posting what authentic information I find here as a counterbalance:


An excerpt from the article that dovetails neatly with other discussion about a community skate park is noted here:

"It's like a dare thing," said Diana Miller, an Easton Area Middle School
cafeteria worker who lives on Wood Avenue. "These kids need a skate park, a bike
park, somewhere they can go."
Given this sort of horror, I'm more inclined to agree than ever.

I offer my deepest sympathies to the friends and family of the young Mr. Mitchell. And I know this can never be enough.

This song I'd thought was weirdly fitting this sad event (Foals-Spanish Saharah)


noel jones said...

great song--thanks gavin. i think it's important for us all to remember that people express grief and, perhaps more pertinent here--react to shock--in a myriad of ways, and that in a community as diverse as ours, we have a plethora of different personalities here and as many different ways of dealing, or not dealing with, an incident this shocking, this sad. we also have a lot of people who seem completely desensitized, but lets not let their reactions (or lack of reactions) cause us to forget stories like Terrence's comment on Nikkita's post about the people in the community who are feeling it and are mourning and reaching out to anyone, even strangers, to share in the consolation of mourning together.

we do have a lot of great community members here, many who do not yet know each other, so perhaps this tragedy will bring some neighbors closer together...

g_whiz said...

Agreed, nuance is important to be reminded of, especially during very emotionally jarring experiences. People do process things differnetly. I just felt as though the accident was more a spectator sport than it could have been. I wasn't hearing any insight or concern or seeing any interest, but I know there are and were people genuinely conflicted over the tragedy. Its heartening at the very least. And Terrence's comment was pretty inspiring. Here's to more outreach and less apathy.

Anonymous said...

yes this was a terible thing, yes, I feel for the parents, family. but lets keep it in perspective; it was an ACCIDENT. the kids did a stupid thing and he paid for it unfortunatley. don't forget that really bad things are happening every day all over. as for the skate park thing, that wouldn't have prevented this; kids are still going to ride TO the skatepark, DUH!
the best thing is prevention and teaching our kids the rules of the road, and best of all, doing things like riding bikes WITH our kids. IMHO, I wouldn't let a 13yo ride around this neighborhood by himself.

g_whiz said...

Thanks for posting, to counter your argument though, I feel the following points need to be made:

1.) Nobody was suggesting that having access to a skatepark would have prevented this. Having access to a skatepark might keep kids from speeding down alleys as a dare, but thats not entirely material. It was as you say an accident, and one that may not have been preventable, but it does make the case for giving youngsters with a lack of access to safe places to play a venue.

2.) "Bad things happen" quite a lot yes, but does that mean we're to casually shrug it off when it happens at our feet? I don't think being that flippant is helpful in any case.

3.) I think you make a very good point about supervision though. These are busy streets, and in any case, likely not the best place for anyone to be playing around.


noel jones said...

Anon 2:56~~I think this is precisely the kind of emotional disconnect that g_whiz is lamenting. It's not appropriate to make fun of a boy who is dead and a family that is grieving. What kind of a person uses a word like "duh" to describe a tragedy like this?

Teaching kids the rules of the road and riding with them is great parenting. I hope you also believe in teaching kids to be respectful of others and sensitive in their times of grief, which is also important parenting, not to mention good citizenry.

I hope that you never lose anyone to a tragedy and have to suffer comments like this in your time of grief. You have reinforced g_whiz's point here, which I had hoped to allay with references to those of us in the community who are feeling the impact of this loss of a bright child. Not that it matters, but he was a good student, and had a lot of friends who are missing him right now.

And saying dismissive things like, "don't forget that really bad things are happening every day all over" doesn't make me feel any better about this tragedy--it sounds like an excuse to not care about one's community, as g_whiz was expressing.

If you want to make these kinds of comments, you will find a home with others who share your perspective on the online comments of the Express Times--I am very proud of the fact that our blog sets us apart as a community where you will be deleted if you continue to say thoughtless, hurtful things at such a tragic time.

If you want to debate as to whether or not the kids should have a skate park, or even whether or not a park would have prevented the accident, or even to discuss the importance of teaching road safety to kids, those are all valid points for debate, but we do not run a forum for personal attacks here, especially in a time like this.

David Caines said...

I don't really find it appropriate to blame the victim. Particularly not a ten year old. I don't expect a ten year old to be able to bring all that much common sense to the table. I see no reason to blame the parents who are suffering enough, nor the poor bus driver who is probably questioning his every action leading up to the second of impact.
As was mentioned I also think this was an accident, a tragic accident in that the person lost was a child, but only an accident.
As just a side question, are we as a community doing anything to support those grieving parents? A prayer vigil or the like? if so please post it and jeanette and I will try to attend.

noel jones said...

David--Robert was 13, but your points are very well taken. And yes, I believe that Terrence is planning a prayer vigil--thanks for asking.

hopeunseen said...

David, Noel,

About a dozen of us were out on the impulse this morning praying at the site. Tomorrow there will be a prayer walk at 2:00 pm at Northampton and 9th. It's being organized by some folks in Allentown so I don't know how Easton-broad it is but all prayer is welcome and needed. You can call Kari Holmes at 610-841-3869 for more information.


g_whiz said...

Well said and thank you for the comments everyrone. Over the past sevaral days I've noticed a prayer vigil and a public gathering on Northampton that got a very positive turn out. I'm glad to see there is quite a lot of interest in giving this sad affair its due respect. Its quite encouraging.