The Stories in Tragedy: Manchester Dogs Home

My daughter woke up in tears at 3am this morning (that’s another post) and it took a long while to calm her back to sleep. When I finally made it back to bed, I had to check the downloads for my latest Baby Blues free promotion (they’ve been amazing, but that’s another post too) and I happened on a tragic story unfolding in Manchester.

Yesterday evening a fouteen-year-old boy allegedly set fire to the Manchester Dog Home. The home houses around 200 dogs and at least a quarter were killed in the blaze.

I reluctantly confess, despite being a dog lover, my initial response was that it wasn’t a tragedy on the scale of Syria or Gaza or the 9/11 anniversary.

It disgusts me, now, in the cold light of dawn, how numb I have become to tragedy.

Then I started reading the news feed – in reverse – and became involved in the emotion of it. The story behind the headline.

It’s what Humans of New York has done for every strife-ridden country it has visited as part of the UN Tour: tell the stories and you humanise the victims. You create room for empathy and the headline is no longer a number, a statistic. The dispassionate historian in me gives way to the writer. That is the power of stories.

As I read about the awful truth of trapped animals yelping in fear, I cried. When I read about the people of Manchester and beyond turning out in their thousands with crates and blankets and offers of help I felt lifted by the knowledge that there is still some good left in humanity. The online fundraising account started by the Manchester Evening News has raised a staggering sum overnight (donate here) and my faith in the world is somewhat restored.

But then I read some of the comments about the 14-year-old suspect. Comments like ‘he should hang’, and ‘he should burn’ and I think, what about his story? Don’t get me wrong, I think it was a despicable act and he should be punished. But, fourteen? What happens in a child’s life that leads him there?

And that’s the parent in me talking. That’s listening to my daughter sob at 3am, “Mummy, I just don’t know why I’m so sad,” and fearing she’s inherited my depression, god help her. That’s seeing every tiny thing that shapes my children and feeling guilty for most of it, while trying to remember they are people in their own right and it isn’t all my fault.

I’m shocked and dismayed by the boy’s behaviour, and six years ago I would have let him burn. But meeting hate with hate isn’t the answer, although I don’t know what is. My first response is to want to give him a hug, as I would my boy, when he does something stupid that incurs my wrath and says, “I don’t know why I did that, Mummy, I’m sorry.”

All I know is the emotions left me feeling like I might fly apart. There isn’t room inside me for all the contradictory empathy, the love and loss and hope and disappointment and, above all, the need to understand. The world was easier when it was hero and villain, good and bad, black and white.

7 thoughts on “The Stories in Tragedy: Manchester Dogs Home

  1. I sometimes can’t watch the news because it feels as though I am soaking the whole world’s sadness inside of me, and I don’t know how much more of other people’s pain I can stand. That’s probably the hardest (and best) things about being a HSP. I totally agree – when people do such heinous things, my first reaction is to wonder about the sadness inside of them. What makes a 14 year old behave in that way? I used to work on a mental health ward and was the same then – nearly every young man that came through the doors had a history of abuse or neglect, and it’s no coincidence. Please don’t worry about your little girl – if she does inherit your depression, you will be looking for it, and will know how to help her more than anyone else x

  2. Amanda. I must admit. I had to take a break when I read about the shelter being burned. I couldn’t take it anymore. But I resumed reading and I had the same feeling you did when I learned people were helping. They say that people who are cruel to animals are cruel to humans. And cruel is a nice word! Yes things were simpler when it was black and white! Good and bad, and so forth. Tragedy in Manchester! Horrible!

  3. It’s very sad but like you I can see both sides of it… I find that current affairs and the news really, really distress me. I have to limit the amount I watch because I really struggle to cope with the emotional trauma. I suppose once you’ve gestated a life you have a greater understanding of what goes into creating one. Either way I find it really hard to keep a handle on current events though I believe I should.

    Cheers

    MTM

    • I agree. I used to read ‘The Week’ magazine cover to cover every week, desperate to improve my (very limited) world knowledge. It just depressed me. Even (or especially) the one-inch-column stories would set my writer’s brain whirring, trying to empathise and understand. So I cancelled the subscription.
      Slowly slowly the blogs and FB pages I follow have filled the void, but with stories and causes I care even more about. When I hit rock-somewhere-near-bottom this week (hence my blog silence) I unfollowed every single FB page and one or two acquaintances that were poisoning my feed. I don’t feel magically better but I’m no longer pouring energy into causes I neither created nor can fix. I want the world to be a better place for my children but I can maybe do that better by loving them than by sobbing over some poor family made homeless by the bombing in Gaza. Sigh. It’s a tough world.

      • I do the boarding school switch off. When I was at boarding school, I missed home but after a term or so I learned to switch home off. I missed it but I could make it sort of unreal in a sense so while I knew I missed it, if I only looked at the idea out of the corner of my eye, I wouldn’t actually get sad. There was lots to do and all my mates around which helped, obviously.

        The news is a bit like that, except that after having McMini I cant look at it out of the corner of my eye any more.I cry. I pray. I give money. Perhaps if I hurt I am somehow helping to carry their pain. I don’t know. I cope by short spates of being formed and then long breaks.

        So yeh… it’s not weird and you’re not alone! 😉

        Cheers

        MTM

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