Thursday, April 30, 2009

Passing through

My heart breaks for the souls on the tour bus who died or survived the horrific crash Tuesday near Soledad. Who can imagine the terror?

They were nearing the end of their extended tour of the United States from the tight quarters of buses. Together they had experienced all the landmarks and the terrific things to see in the Western States, so they must have developed friendships. The sense of camaraderie created among fellow travelers on such trips are often the highlight of travel. But in an instant, the trip of a lifetime turned to horror. New friends were lost. Family members died. They are far from home, they don't speak the language.

It is rather phenomenal that none of the travelers on the fated bus care to share their experiences and their thoughts about the accident publicly. We respect their wishes, of course, and I'm not aware of any local reporters trying to bully interviews from the victims. But it's something American journalists aren't really accustomed to.

In America, survivors of tragedies seem more than willing to tell their stories whenever someone with a camera or a notebook shows up. They'll tell us all about the phone calls they made before the plane went down, the calm response of fellow passengers before the ferry sunk, the heroic efforts of the crews who came to their rescue.

I don't know what conclusion to draw from the reaction of the French travelers aboard that bus on Tuesday. I would guess that perhaps they are more circumspect, that the permeation of the culture of celebrity, in which all Americans expect to someday find their 15 minutes of fame, has not yet reached France. Perhaps they believe that the "healing process" does not necessarily require an appearance on television.

Nevertheless, we wish our visitors well and we pray they may soon recover from this horrible tragedy.

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