Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wrenching Stuff

Today I worked on a very sad story. A mother and her baby, a baby she never got to see, were buried together. The mother, Donnette Sanz, a New York City traffic agent, was killed a week and a half ago as she crossed a street in the Bronx. She was seven months pregnant. Doctors delivered her baby by emergency cesarean section, and for about a week, the premature infant clung to life. Friday he died. Yesterday was their funeral.

I’ve heard many things from many people while working on this story: “God always takes the good ones,” “The driver of the van should rot in hell,” “This world isn’t fair.” Each comment affects me in its own way. Some I buy into, others I don’t. But let me suspend judgment for a moment to talk about how such tragedies, I think, can be avoided.

With simple responsibility.

If everyone, or at least the majority of people, realized that each action he took has a consequence ranging from from hardly-felt to earth-shattering, this world would be safer and better. It's that simple. It’s also important to realize that there really are no such things as shortcuts. For instance, the driver who slammed into Donnette and caused her death said his "breaks went out." But he had been driving with brake pads so thin, and in such need of repair, that an accident was bound to happen. In other words, this driver chose to take a shortcut: he wanted to drive, but didn't want to meet the basic requirements. This driver might have made thousands of dangerous moves in his life and taken countless shortcuts, and all could have had hardly-felt consequences. But he continued to act negligently, and this time, the consequences were earth-shattering.

The key, then, as we walk away from this tragedy, I guess, is to promise ourselves we won't be negligent with our actions — large or small — when other people's lives are at stake. And that’s friend or stranger.