Subject: [Insert 30 seconds of thinking up a vapid subject line.]
As if Americans needed another example of the utter incompetence on display by corporate heads and our government: Ladies and gentlemen, Exhibit A — Tallmansville, West Virginia.
As improbable as it may sound, I know how the families of the fallen miners actually feel, but it was sort of the other way around. Let me explain:
In 2002 my girlfriend, Amber, was woken by a phone call from her shaken mother. Amber could barely understand her mom, and just standing next to her, I could hear her quivering voice and slight squeals.
The police had just contacted her mom and told her that her son, Amber’s brother Jason — whom my brother was best friends with, was found dead. He was driving his father’s Mazda Miata on a curvy road in the outskirts of a suburb of Little Rock and lost control at approximately 110 mph.
Amber’s mom and dad were about to leave to go identify the body. The police had to trace the license plate to Amber’s house because the body was badly marred and no wallet with identification was found.
Meanwhile, my brother and I set out on a trip I’ll never forget. We went to the house where Justin was living with two other roommates — all of whom had been friends since childhood. I didn’t know what to say to my brother, and to say I was regretting this trip is a gross understatement.
We arrived at the apartment, and Chad answered the door. It was obvious they had experienced a long night. There was still cocaine residue on the coffee table. Empty vodka bottles were strewn across the room. Someone was passed out on the couch, fully clothed, with shoes on and everything.
My brother, with a look on his face that I’ll never forget, simply said, “We need to talk. Outside.” Chad took it pretty well, but he wanted to go and wake up Chris, the other roommate, and let him know.
We let Chad go by himself. He was closer to Chris than he was to Justin. Justin was closer to Chris than he was to Chad. Then I heard the weirdest shriek/scream/”what the fuck” sound in my life.
My brother and I ran in the room to find Justin wiping the sleep from his eyes asking what the fuck our problem was.
... To make a long story short, the police assumed it was Justin who was driving the car and immediately called his parents without checking, well, anything. The cop that made the initial call didn’t call back to say he fucked up. A desk cop that never leaves the office was forced to call a mother and tell her that her son was NOT dead; instead his best friend is dead.
I know that these instances are sticky. Shit happens. To a certain extent. It’s not like no one did nothing wrong. At least one person fucked up, got excited and told someone that the miners were alive. And as angry as people — me included — may be, it doesn’t do any good to belittle that person any more.
Think about going to sleep every night knowing that you’ve cause the worst grief that 12 families have ever experienced. Think of how many people were affected by this shit. No words you could say to the person who “miscommunicated” could ever hurt him or her as much as they are already.
That one instance with Justin and Chris sent ripples throughout that small suburb, with everyone questioning the police department’s capabilities and some even demanding the expulsion of a handful of officers.
In no way is this forgivable or forgettable. But grieve, and try your best to get on with your life. It should never give anyone pleasure to kick a man while he’s down.