Tragedy by today’s terms is quite different from the tragedies of decades and centuries past. Although the simple definition of tragedy is an event that causes great sadness, the term tragedy has taken on a much deeper meaning throughout the centuries.
In past centuries and/or decades, tragedy may have fallen on an entire group of people or on one individual or family. However, a large portion of the population felt the sadness whether it was a country, church congregation, village, or smaller community. Today’s tragedies may be experienced by many thousands of people or an individual or family, but the sadness tends to remain there. In the past, even minor events were felt deeply by all in the community. Today, the event almost needs to be catastrophic in nature to invoke the feelings of an entire community either on the local level or world level. Past tragedies which effected large populations included the Potato famine, the first nuclear bomb, the Holocaust, volcano eruptions, world wars, polio — to name a few.
As example of a smaller community tragedy could be seen during the American’s movement into the west. Families would leave the comfort and luxury of their eastern homes to explore and settle west. The tragedies they suffered included harsh winters, starvation, sickness, loss of a child or other family member, lack of resources, wildlife and clashes with Native Americans. When a family suffered such tragedy, word spread throughout the country and many mourned. Recent tragedies include the terrorist attack of 911, the tsunamis, Aids, cancer, the War on Terrorism, to name a few. Of course, these events have effect people worldwide.
However, tragedies considered major in the past — a miscarriage, a minor flood, loss of a job — are felt by those directly involved rather than an entire community. Having said that, there are still events that occur that seems to pull in an entire community, nation or the world. Some events still occur that are so horrific that people can’t help but be changed by it.
Tragedy hit me personally about a year and a half ago. Between Christmas and New Year’s of that year, a childhood friend of mine was “tragically” killed in a car accident. Aside from the fact that he died, the circumstances of how that accident came to be are just as tragic.
My friend, 16, and his brother, 18 went to a party where parents were not present. There was alcohol served at the party and his brother was intoxicated towards the end of the evening. The brother and another boy got into an argument, and the brother jumped into his car, where my friend was asleep waiting for him, and began to drive home. About five miles from their home, the brother driving fell asleep, veered off the road, and slammed into a tree. My friend was killed instantly.
This was a major tragedy for our community because he was a terrific kid and was a good friend to all. He was a talented athlete both in football and baseball, the star quarterback and star pitcher respectively. He was involved in many community activities like 4-H, school and sports fund raisers, Shop with Cops Christmas program and so on.
His funeral was held on the football field of our high school at the request of his family and his football jersey was retired! Aside from his death being a tragedy in itself, the other tragedy was that it was his brother’s fault that he died. The family not only had to deal with the death of one son, but the life of the other son was also completely destroyed. Several family members are still dealing with problems relating to this tragedy.
The brother seems to be spiraling out of control, no doubt punishing himself for the death of his brother. This has been a tragedy that has deeply affected the way I think about things and the choices I make. In closing, while the nature of tragedy has changed greatly over the years, its effects on others remain. Tragedy is usually felt deeply and changes lives forever.
Tragedy is inevitable. It is how individuals and/or society that can change handle tragedy.