My weekend was a no-news weekend. My head and my heart were elsewhere. So here’s the thing. I get to work this morning, pick up the paper. The cover is black. A real rip snorter of a Big News Day. The newsroom is in a lather. The TVs are turned up. Never a good sign. The paper was hours old, of course. The net gave me the figure. 120 dead, and climbing. It hit 131 before I logged off. It’ll go higher, they say. Possibly much higher.
I’ve been in shock most of the day. Maybe we all have. Even the politicians were lost for words. How the fuck do 131 people die from a bushfire in 2009?
It makes you want to check the calendar. Stick your head out the window and look for smoke.
This was, we’re told, the motherfucker of all bushfires, in all its fractured number. One quote that struck me, paraphrased: they had a 30m dead zone, gutters full of water and a wet roof, and he told me the kitchen just exploded.
The kitchen just exploded.
How do you deal with that? How much of a firebreak should you need to stop your kitchen from exploding?
My country is burning and we’re reeling because the damage is staggering. All we can do is count heads and hug each other, donate to those who survived with nothing and mourn those who lost it all.
Now, add in the floods that are devastating my home state. Nowhere near the loss of life, but the property damage is massive.
Floods in the north, fires in the south. And there’s more.
Five dead in a head-on, both cars aflame. Miraculously, one woman survived.
And a five-year-old gets taken by a crocodile. It’s almost surreal, isn’t it? Five, a crocodile, amid all this other horror and misery.
The country feels like one massive wound tonight, shell-shocked from its Big News Day.
Ready for the kicker? You won’t read about this in the paper. There won’t be a headline, an interview, not that I’m aware of. It wouldn’t rate on a Big News Day.
I’m looking at a MySpace page because I got sent a message. One of my MySpace Friends has died, peacefully, of a brain tumour. She was 26. Her page is bright, vibrant, filled with attitude and pictures of smiling young people and what I would count as an admirable taste in pop culture. I reckon I would’ve liked her, if we’d met, her and her friends swapping messages about gigs and other ordinary stuff we use to fill her lives. Twenty-six.
And it’s not over yet. Rain’s still falling up north, fires are still burning down south, the funerals haven’t started yet.
Front page, back page, MySpace page: doesn’t matter which, it’s a Big News Day. Every day is a Big News Day for someone, and maybe that’s the point I’m looking for here as I try to make sense of today.
Not what’s worth dying for but what’s worth living for. And making the most of it while we can. Because we just don’t know, do we?
Go safely, friends. There’s been more than enough news today.