Creative Control

Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist

And I alone escaped to tell thee.

This is Mohammed el-Fateh Osman, the three year-old boy who is the only survivor of yesterday’s plane crash in the Sudan that killed 116 people. He suffered burns and lost his right leg, but he is otherwise considered in stable condition, and he will join his father and older sister as soon as they release him from the hospital.

There’s something about sole survivors of horrible incidents that sparks powerful reactions in me [1]; reactions of horror and reactions of sympathy and, loath though I am to admit it, reactions of inspiration and drama. If second marriages [2] are the triumph of hope over experience, the existence of sole survivors seems to me the triumph of hope over fate. Something in the grand design decided to drop an airplane out of the sky, caring little for the lives aboard, cruelly reducing their existences to a stroke of bad luck.

And yet, a three year-old boy has survived. Unaware, perhaps, of what has happened, or what it means, or if it means anything. I find myself filled with wonder and worry for Mohammed el-Fateh Osman, trying to imagine what this will do to him as he grows and finds himself, wonder and worry for the possible return to his past twenty years hence when news networks begin to ask, “Hey, I wonder what happened to that kid in the Sudan, you know, the one who didn’t get killed in the plane crash.” [3]

Some years back, I had a similar reaction to the Dunblane Massacre that killed an entire kindergarten class except for one boy who managed to hide from the gunman. I still wonder about this boy. I still worry about him, albeit in that nebulous, nonspecific way that I sympathize with all post-trauma victims.

But here’s what I may not want to admit: that perhaps I only sympathize because I would never want to one day be one of them. I know that there are great and unwieldy burdens to survival that I’m not sure I can yet handle. Although, for what it’s worth, I’m not sure any of us are ready for them if and when they come.

[1] And clearly in many others; it’s at least part of the pull of the Harry Potter books, to follow the life of The Boy Who Lived.

[2] Or Cubs fandom. Because I can’t be this serious to start the day.

[3] I wonder the same thing about Elian Gonzales.

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This entry was posted on July 9, 2003 by in News of the World, Thoughts.
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