The deaths of 12 miners in Sago, West Virginia is no less a communication tragedy than the deaths of two Jersey City Police Officers who were killed in the line of duty after plunging off the edge of an open bridge last week.


The issue in Sago and Jersey City reverberates on a base human level:
Heartbreak in the miscommunication of truth.

It is human nature for
people to hear what they wish to hear even if the information is wrong.
When a miracle was initially interpreted in Sago, rejoicing and praise
of God spread over believers like wildfire.

When the fact of death was
revealed there was no more praise of God or of changing to a more
comforting metaphor of bringing the miners home to heaven — there was
only sorrow and sobbing as the truth hit the living hard in the heart.

In Jersey City, the miscommunication that killed the officers was just
as lethal as vital information was withheld from officers responding to
a call for help. Without knowing the fact the bridge has been raised
behind them, the two officers drove over the edge in their Emergency
Services truck. Their truck flipped and pancaked on top of them in the
rocky water below.

Facts do not always clearly translate into the truth: “We found 12
miners” extends to the wanting ear, “We found 12 miners alive.” When
“the bridge is raised” is not communicated to everyone on the ground,
that fact never tempers the pre-existing truth in the minds of the
uninformed that “the bridge is the same as it was when you drove over
it 30 seconds ago.”

We have a great responsibility to each other to
clearly and cogently protect and then communicate the truth with
verifiable facts beyond us and while those facts may be cold and hurt
they will ultimately find comfort in others who know it is always the
truth, and never the facts, that sets us free.

14 Comments

  1. The truth does change. I wish I could change TV. Every channel has this story on and it’s old now. 12 people died. 1,000 people a day die of hunger across the world but you don’t see that on live TV.

  2. Yes, Karvain, the exploitation of the families by the media’s thirst for blood is overwhelming.
    One woman, who praised God last night when she thought the miners were alive today was wondering aloud on television if she really believed in the Lord or not.
    Faith of convenience is no Faith at all.

  3. I have to comment on faith of convenience. So many people praise G-d only when things go their way and curse and yell at G-d when bad things happen to them.
    There is a bracha (blessing) said by Jews when a miracle occurs that is witnessed.
    There is another bracha that is said when something tragic occurs.
    Everything that G-d does, we are taught, is for the good – even if we don’t necessarily see it at the time.
    The link I provided is a search for the phrase “Baruch Dayan Haemes” which is a shortened, non-blessing form of stating the same thing. People generally say it when someone dies but just about any tragedy will bring it out of people.

  4. Hi Gordon!
    You make an excellent argument about faith. The link did not come through, though. Can you re-post it?
    You either believe in hardship and success or you don’t believe at all. I realize the pain of keeping the Faith in times of devastation but it should be that very Faith that carries one through it all.

  5. I’ve got an easier way – go to your favourite search engine (mine is a9.com) and search for “Baruch Dayan Haemes” 🙂 It’s quite interesting the results that come up.
    I did find an interesting link on “random suffering”.

  6. I’m sorry to hear about the officers. Facts and truth are an interesting combo. The media is burning us out on the miners. Mistakes in communication happen. It was chaos out there.

  7. Hey Anne —
    Thanks for the kind comment and it is unfortunate the families are so angry when they had to know something just wasn’t right about them all being alive. The wild rumors swirling about offered little reality of compassion including one that the miners were going to visit the church to say “hello” first before sauntering off to the hospital in an ambulance – it’s just too remarkable to be believable.