Yesterday, I wrote that something seriously weird was going in the world. First we had a plane crash from an otherwise safe airline, and then we had a surfer injured by a whale on a beach better known for reality shows about life guards.
I wrote that these events had a similar eery quality to them: they both represent some of our biggest fears (plane crash and aquatic attack) yet ones that we usually excuse, safe in the knowledge that they “never happen”.
I said that this felt like the sort of thing that would come in threes. And then it did.
On the train to work this morning, I read about the train explosion in Canada. It has all the markers of a very worst fear: a small sleepy town in the middle of the night, a runaway train, a horrific explosion. Authorities still do not know what caused the train to leave the station; the driver had checked the breaks that very evening. It combines so many worries. What if I never wake up? What if our house burns down?
Let me be clear that I do not mean every fear can fall into this category (that I am lumping three unrelated incidences into). If your house burns down because you left a fire burning and went out, or fell asleep smoking a cigarette, or there is a bushfire nearby, then these are all explanatory. You understand there is a certain amount (if minuscule) level of risk by living in a bushfire-prone region. Or smoking in the house. Or having a fire place.
What happened in Canada cannot so easily be explained. What happened in Canada is a tragedy that has roots in economic and environmental concerns, but I would argue it is among “the ridiculous” that we ration away when we go about our daily lives. I won’t be swallowed by a sinkhole, we reason. The bridge won’t collapse. A runaway train won’t crash into my house. The airplane won’t catch fire.
Maybe I’m creating something out of nothing. I’ve never predicted anything to be true before (I wouldn’t last ten minutes inside a casino) but this morning the news spooked me. It’s just been a spooky 24 hours, I guess.
All my thoughts are with those in Lac-Megantic, on board the Asiana Airline flight, and particularly with those who have died. I hope the surfer is recovering well.
Spare a thought for the train driver, too. I’m sure he is a decent person, and decent people were not made to withstand that much guilt and self-loathing. We don’t know yet whether it is or is not his fault, which means he likely does not know either. I can only imagine his agony.
Image 1: Explosion – BBC News