Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, January 13, 2020.

It is hard to put into words the extent of the tragedy that has befallen the families and friends of the 176 people who died in the recent plane crash near Tehran. Worse yet was learning the latest about the Iranian surface-to-air missile that struck the plane down. Someone – human error or not – shot the plane down (yes, I know it’s not the first one, sadly.) One can hope that many of the painful questions that multiply with each day will find answers, but then again, that will not make up for lost lives.

Since the crash happened, we have been seeing countless videos and photographs of the site, including the unbelievably shocking video of the plane as it was coming crashing down in flames. All I could imagine was the people aboard, crew included, children and their parents, scared and helpless and knowing what was coming.

The next thought was ‘how painful that must be for the family and friends of the victims and what good does it do for anyone to see this anyway?’. The same for the rest of the photos and videos. Why? Why interview people who are struggling to make sense of the world after losing loved ones. We got to see pieces of luggage and identity cards of people who are no more, charred plane parts, and the faces of people who were looking forward to returning home to Canada. So much pain on display.

Media will present all sides of the news and they will keep on doing it for as long as that news is hot, I was told when I brought up this issue. It’s their job. And it’s what many want to see, because, like it or not, many humans have that kind of morbid curiosity.

Not for nefarious reasons necessarily, but because it’s so unbelievable and impactful when such things happen. So much so, that we go back and read more, hoping we will be able to find something that says, OK this is not true, but we wanted to see how you all reacted to it.

When my mom passed away unexpectedly, the last thing I wanted was to talk to anyone, or, God forbid, have anyone share anything visual related to my mom. Grieving is a complicated process and most often than not, a private affair. Then again, this recent tragedy transcends the personal on many levels.

The more we learn about it, the more there is to think about. The reason the plane came down, error or not, is because of the aggressive interactions between two countries. People in power on both sides made decisions that ended up claiming the lives of many innocent others.

More yet are and will be affected – the families and friends of the victims, and the many people who are now protesting in Tehran. A display of violence has been going on since the end of last year has now been refuelled as the Iranian government admitted to shooting down the plane. Past and present internet restrictions hide most of it from the world, but let’s hope that the world will not stop looking and caring once the crash is not longer hot news.

Personally, seeing the faces of those who perished and reading about their lives and dreams brings yet another reminder to treasure those we hold dear, and to never take anyone we care about for granted. The wreckage photographs are painful to see, but the least we can do is allow compassion to flood our thoughts and proceed differently from here on.

Ultimately, individuals like you or I cannot affect the fate of the world, but we can sure affect the lives of those around us. Treating people with kindness, and acknowledging that we each carry a story, and that some of us are tried by life in imaginable ways, that can help us act in ways that affirm our shared humanity in better ways and with renewed compassion.