Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What Does Writing About Tragedy Help Us Accomplish?

Ernie Pyle, the man with the white goggles, was a WWII
journalist . His experiences were cataloged in Brave Men.  
The shootings in Newton, Connecticut were a tragedy. Something, I admit, I have a hard time feeling sad about. I am human. I cry when people I know die, when my animals die, and when I know a person's story. Fred Weasley never existed, yet his passing still made me cry simply because I knew enough about him. However, I have a hard time feeling any sadness when tragedy strikes outside the scope of people I know.

I imagine immersion has a lot to do with feeling close to the situation. Immersion in a community, a family, a fake world, or a town can certainly effect you. Journalists have to deal with this whenever they immerse themselves in a community.

A couple of days ago The Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma released a guide  on how journalists should deal with tragic events. They mentioned Ernie Pyle (picture above) a WWII correspondent who wrote from the battle front. He was one of the first writers to travel with soldiers and write about war in as we know it today. His accounts would capture the death of people he knew, the mental break down of soldiers on their way home, and the horrors of war in general. His book Brave Men is an excellent depiction of the horrible things that occurred there. His book was something that allowed the reader to become immersed into the midst of the war.

Writing is a communication tool that helps translate a tragedy into something everyone can feel. To watch the soul poor out of a child's or soldier's eyes is something that when put into narrative form tugs at the heart. When the details are revealed, a person is known, an experience is described in detail we begin to understand that outside community.

Writing does more than this however, as the Dart Center pointed out writing can help the writer deal with a  tragedy. They do this by writing for themselves about the events. Reports are simply not enough (It is speculated Pyle still had post traumatic stress disorder). There are things journalists know that they cannot share with the public. Things they might hang on to that they shouldn't. Writing, talking with others, and any other manner of therapy can help in those situations. It can essentially help everyday people deal with the most abhorrent of situations.

Writing can help us communicate on a deeper level. It can help us know our fears and nightmares in a way that can be communicated to all. Fiction can do this just as well as a journal of real events. That communication of every aspect of life is something that can help console not only a reader, but a writer as well. Sharing these thoughts can even make a person like me, who feels detached from Newton, find a way to feel its effects.

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