Sad News Travels Fast on Facebook

Posted: August 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

Tragic fatalities jar the community, always coming out of nowhere and never making any sense. From the families and friends and coworkers that are at ground zero of the sudden loss out to those who never knew anyone involved, the level of the jar goes from emotional devastation to passing feelings of sadness and thoughts of condolences as we mentally put ourselves in the shoes of the suffering.
Because of the internet and the smart phones most people carry, the news that will move everyone that hears it begins going out immediately. A Facebook page called Spokane News posts all noteworthy incidences as they roll across the police scanner and follows up with the official report as soon as it is released. The page has 36,700 followers and I am one of them. But on Wednesday, August 7th, one of the most jarring days I can remember in the Valley, I was at the scene faster than the speed of Facebook as my path passed by the location of the first of the day’s two tragic fatalities within a few short minutes of the accident.
Heading downtown on the freeway to get to an 8:15 dentist appointment, I could see the traffic up ahead coming to a crawl and so I opted out on the off-ramp that wraps around into Fancher at Sprague. I was going to go all the way into town on Sprague but after waiting through one signal light and calculating that I was about three signals back in the long line of like-minded commuters, I whipped out of the turning lane and went across Sprague and flipped a U-ey by Home Depot. It dawned on me that Third had a lot less lights and so I went back across Sprague on Fancher which shortly turns right into Third.
As I rounded the corner, I could see something had happened just ahead. A man on the north side of the road was beginning to motion for cars to slow down, I noticed he looked very concerned and shaken. The mini-van in front of me quickly parked and blocked the lane, I could tell they were getting involved. As I went around, I was grateful they had blocked the lane and I would have hoped that I would have done the same if I had been the one in front.
Beyond diverting traffic, it appeared there was not much else to do but wait for the emergency vehicles to arrive. As I went around the blocking mini van, I saw a young man lying all alone on his side on the shoulder of the road. He was facing the other way and if he had been lying in a park he would have looked as though he were taking a peaceful nap. But the car with the smashed windshield just beyond him and his stillness told me that he had abruptly come to his final rest.
I drove by at about 8:02. There were no emergency respondents or even sirens in the distance, but the incident was about to be posted on Facebook via Spokane News. When I drove back by on the far side of the freeway 90 minutes later, the area was swarming. Though I had passed by twice, I could not piece together what had happened but as soon as I got home and fired up Facebook I learned exactly what was going on from Spokane News latest update and the comments that had begun streaming in at 9:37 AM.
Mathew Miller, a young and well-loved Valley man, was getting on the freeway right there where Fancher turns into Third and two lanes peel off to the left onto I-90. Apparently he was in the right freeway entrance lane, when the car in the left entrance lane decided, as I had earlier, to get off and avoid the traffic jam. Trouble was that he did not see Matt , who had the right-of-way and they collided. Matt stopped next to the freeway, the other driver stopped on the far side of Third. Matt crossed Third to talk to the driver and then was headed back to his vehicle while talking on the phone when he stepped in the path of another car. He was only 30 years old and had just celebrated his anniversary the night before with his wife Brandy with a dinner at Anthony’s by the Falls.
Spokane News began reporting Wednesday’s second heartbreaking fatality minutes before it even occurred at Trent and Vista. Shortly after 5 pm Spokane News posted a scanner report that someone in a black Jetta hit a car in the Fred Meyer parking lot at Sullivan and Sprague. The man then staggered into the store and when he came back out he got in his car and then hit another car as he sped out of the parking lot.
Minutes later Spokane News posted the report of an accident at Trent and Vista. The man who could not negotiate a parking lot full of slow-moving and parked cars, had somehow made his way to the other side of the Valley. He was on a course of his own making as he drove recklessly and impaired. Brittany Babinski, a beautiful 21-year-old girl that everyone who knew loved, was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The car in front of her had time to swerve out of the path of the black Jetta coming head on and full speed into the wrong lane, leaving Brittany no time to react.
As with Mathew Miller, I did not know Brittany and so my feelings were those of sadness and feeling sorry for the families and friends who were suffering from the worst kind of loss. It turned out that the loss of Brittany hit much closer to home as both of my daughters went to West Valley with her. In the old days they probably would have lost touch after graduation but these days friends can stay in touch through Facebook, which they all had.
My daughters were truly heartbroken when they heard the news of Brittany’s accident. Though they seldom saw each other in the flesh, they saw bits and pieces of each others lives posted on Facebook. Sadly, I only knew of her and Matt in death, via the same social network. What an interesting phenomenon, Facebook. What a terribly sad day for the Valley.

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