We are sitting in class discussing social media and how quickly news can travel these days. It’s an informal discussion on the state of journalism and ways in which we, as journalists, can use the internet to our advantage. One guy stops the class and says “Have you heard what has just happened? It’s all over Twitter…”
The sound of typing on keyboards and mobile phones instantly fills the room and is almost immediately replaced with gasps and a chilling quiet. The girl beside me grabs her phone and heads straight for the door. As avid news followers our attention lies solely with the story; our seminar becomes a frenzy of tweeting journalists and constant updates from various news sources. But the Ottawan part of us can’t help but ask the human questions: Is this really happening? How serious is it? Is someone I know involved?… Could it have been me?
At 8:48 that morning a bus in Ottawa crashed into a train at an intersection, killing six people and leaving thirty injured. The double-decker bus was merely fifteen minutes away from Carleton University when it collided head on with the train. Among the dead were two Carleton students on their way to class.
Within minutes the news spread across the world and my phone began to buzz with concerned messages from friends, family and teachers in Scotland. It’s times like these that make you think those selfish thoughts “I get those buses all the time…”, “I hope nobody I know was on the bus” and you thank your lucky stars that it wasn’t you. But then it hits you; it was someone, it was six different people. Six different “you’s”, six different identities and maybe somewhere in a parallel universe those people are sitting in a classroom and thanking God that they aren’t as unfortunate as you. And they are grateful that they don’t know you. Out of respect they will grieve the loss of life but not the loss of an identity, not the loss of “you” and all that makes you just as important.
In the bathrooms I find the girl who left class abruptly, tears are streaming down her face and her body is shaking with fear and the adrenalin. Her boyfriend was suppose to be on that bus but had fortunately got the one after instead. I hold her for a while and then we go outside for a walk to clear her mind. We talk about the past hour’s events and how beautiful the river looks and make small talk about the weather and the squirrels and chipmunks. Once the tragedy has been processed by our minds we head back to class and take our seats calmly and quietly.
The university has since set up tribute books for the two Carleton students who were victims of the tragedy and people can sign them in the Tory building to show their respect, and grieve and remember their friends and peers.