Hey, Wasn't There Some Sort Of National Tragedy A Few Months Back?
(By Michael Jenkes, The Onion website, 2007)
Wait a minute. I could swear that I was recently shocked and outraged about something that felt really significant. But now I can't for the life of me recall what it was. A senseless horror that staggered the imagination in the scope of its brutality? Something so terrible, a grieving nation was never going to be the same? Did I dream that? I must've dreamt that. Because if something like that had actually happened just a few months ago, I'm sure we'd all still be hearing about it and talking about it every day. Still, some of my memories seem so vivid that I can't shake the feeling that they must be tied to some real event. I remember feeling like it was as bad as our most devastating tragedies- or even worse in some ways? I've got this weird memory of someone saying "deadliest in American history," but I can't put a name to the voice. If it were the deadliest anything, though, it wouldn't have come and gone so quickly. Would it?
I do seem to remember a whole national outcry of dismay. People called in to radio hosts to air their grief and horror. Coworkers huddled in little groups, speaking quietly about how God could allow such a horrible event to happen, and all that kind of stuff. But the thing is, I only really remember like a week or so of that, and then people returned to their normal lives as if nothing had happened. What was it? I can't believe I don't remember what it was. This is going to drive me crazy for the rest of the day. You know, like when you get a song stuck in your head and you can't think of who sang it? God! These little snippets keep coming back to me, but I just can't piece it all together. It felt like a super big deal at the time. The sort of thing that people would look back upon as a turning point of some kind and say things like a "post–this event
No, no, no. Even as I write this, it's sounding less believable to me. If something like that actually occurred, I'm sure I wouldn't be the only one bringing it up just a few months later. The presidential candidates would all be using it to get some traction on long-ignored- but-important issues, or new issues the event had brought to light. There'd be a national debate over how the tragedy could've been prevented, and what steps should be taken to ensure that tragedies like it are avoided in the future. "At all costs," people would be saying. "Never again." Right? There's no way something horrifyingly terrible could have happened only a couple months ago and we'd all have forgotten about it already- is there? You'd think the details of something on that level would be burned into my mind forever—burned into the whole collective consciousness of the country, for that matter. Maybe after 9/11, and Katrina, and the war, and everything else that's been happening for the last however-many years, the collective consciousness just doesn't have any room left for new tragedies to be burned into it. Or maybe I'm just imagining things. That's the problem with the media these days—they fill our heads with so much violence and so many terrible things that you find yourself believing that it's real sometimes. I must be thinking of some movie I saw. But if so, man, it was a pretty fucked-up movie.