I just read the News about another bomb exploding in a downtown Baghdad market. Eighteen dead and plenty of others injured. I’m wondering who is the person that counts the bodies? A bomb goes off, people run screaming, stores pull down shutters for fear of looters and ambulances come whining into the bombed area spilling stretchers, paramedics and other staff. Now among the chaos and confusion, a lone person, with a pencil and a piece of paper, is counting the dead.
What kind of person spends his or her career counting death? Perhaps it’s the media that do the counting. I imagine when there is a bomb explosion, the media are after the ambulances like flies chasing dog shit. No doubt, these news gatherers, contact their various offices via email or a quick Skype, reporting the destruction.
“Another bomb has gone off in the city!”
“Get your ass down there and give us a full report!” comes the response.
“On my way!”
The reporters dive into in taxi’s or staff vehicles and ride the ass of an ambulance. Ten minutes later they arrive at the site. Climbing out of their vehicles, these News men and women, are hit with the stench of burnt flesh. The smell makes their eyes water. Body parts lie every where, like some sort of human jig-saw puzzle. Unfortunately, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, can’t put these bodies back together again. The media move about gagging as they step gingerly over the corpses – lying like broken dolls in a child’s garden. Spotting an official, the reporters converge on this one person, assaulting him or her with questions.
“Excuse me, could you give us any details?”
“I’m sorry, but at this time we are still gathering information.”
“Was it the Taliban or a gift from Bin laden?”
“I’m not at liberty to say.”
The reporters roll their eyes and shake their heads with vexation.
“Can you tells us anything?” asks one particularly pissed off, reporter.
“We know it was a bomb. Other than that – nothing.”
“Thank you. You’ve been a virtual fountain of information.”
The official breaks away from the flashing cameras, rolling video tape and difficult questions and makes a bee-line for the nearest official car, idling outside the blast area. Moments later, he or she is gone. The reporters now turn and watch the paramedics, working hard trying to save the lives of a few. Red is the color of the day – all close by are wearing it. The media – like crazed hyenas smelling the blood – push through the crowds and glean information from anyone at hand, learning soon, that it was the bomb of a suicide bomber. With cell phones they Twitter offices around the world and within seconds text message replies fill the screens. All the messages are the same, all ask the same question.
“Numbers. How many have been killed? ”
Cell phones snap shut and with a pencil and a note pad, the reporters search for someone to answer that question.
Standing by an ambulance, a paramedic wipes blood from his hands. He looks up as a reporter approaches.
“Excuse me, could you tell us how many people were killed here today?”
“We have no idea at the moment,” the man states, “Won’t know for a few days, I expect.”
Frustrated at the lack of information, the reporters begin to count the dead themselves, kicking at some of the bodies to make sure they are …… no more.
“Eighteen,” says one reporter.
Other media people nodded and write the same number. Then comes the job of counting the injured, a seemingly impossible task as there are people everywhere. The garboil makes thought of counting daunting. The reporters look at each other, resignation on their faces,
“Fuck it. Twelve. I’m going with twelve,” one reporter states. the others nod and scribble the same number.
I wonder if it is like that. Let’s hope it is not.