Help Me Stop Thinking About This.

I have been blogging long enough to know to avoid such issues, and I do normally bite my tongue. But this time I’m having trouble. And it’s none of my business. I know this. Yet I can’t stop thinking about it.

Yesterday a blogger (who I had never heard of before) was brought to my attention through a series of ReTweets. It appears her child had a serious medical emergency and was being taken away in an ambulance. Terrible. That goes without saying. But what upset me even more was that there were pictures taken of the child while in the ambulance. They were posted on Twitter while it was happening. (Reality Internet?)

Here’s where I’ll admit to something out loud that I will likely come to regret. This upset me a great deal. I didn’t particularly want to see pictures of her child suffering. I don’t want to see pictures of any child suffering. Ever. The images upset me a great deal. But what upset me more was that I don’t understand, as a mother, how one is capable of doing this while it’s taking place. Naturally, I’m going to try and relate. That’s what I do. I do that with everyone. The soldier who recently murdered 16 people in Afghanistan, 9 of which were children? I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to understand how and why he could do such a thing. (No, I’m not comparing these two people even remotely. I’m merely pointing out that I try and comprehend even the ugliest of actions.)

This is where I keep ending up: if one of my children was suffering, hooked up to wires, unconscious and in an ambulance, I can’t imagine taking pictures of him and posting them on the Internet. I’m not suggesting that in doing so she is a terrible person. I know that people deal with stress differently. It’s that I don’t understand it even a little bit. I keep trying to and I just can’t relate on any level. And I want to so I can stop thinking about it.

I don’t know this person. So I’m trying to figure out what I would do if it had been a very close friend of mine, someone I know extremely well. Would I, assuming everything turns out OK, ask her about it? Would I ask, “How were you able to post that picture online while it was taking place?” Or would I bite my tongue because ultimately it’s none of my business.

One blogger, several years ago, tweeted seconds after finding her 2-year-old drowning in the pool. She asked for prayers. People watched the entire event unfold on Twitter. She faced so much backlash, but even more compassion. People prayed. They came together. Sadly, her toddler didn’t make it, and that fueled even more intense backlash. It was a mess, the whole thing was a terrible mess and at the heart of it all, a child had died.

I’ve read many, many reasons and justifications behind why people do this. Many bloggers, journalists, even psychologists have weighed in, and it always seems to boil down to this: people deal with stress and sorrow differently. Judging how anyone reacts under these circumstances isn’t fair, nor possible.

I so get that. I do. I do. I do. Reading that back. I get it. I saw this firsthand after 9/11. One woman I worked with was in such shock, she paced our office that day asking everyone where she was going to shop since the stores she regularly shopped at were in the World Trade Center. She was hysterical, out of her head. And I totally understood why she’d think that. Humans are complex creatures. It isn’t fair to judge how they deal with stress.

But yet.

I just can’t stop thinking about it this time.

Help me?


  1. I only saw one RT and one picture but I wondered the same thing and immediately tried to understand it. Finally I thought about the last few medical emergencies I’d been in and how grateful I was that there were other people with me who understood and who could see exactly what I saw so when, later, I said, “God it was awful, remember when XYZODHDFSDIHG? I was terrified.” I assumed that this woman was alone with her gravely ill child and she only had paramedics with her who, presumably, she’ll never see again so she was trying to get some kind of agreement, some touchstone. It’s also possible that she, like Queen of Spain and Aaron Vest for example, communicates with her partner daily via social media so this was a fast way to let him or her know what was happening in the moment. And finally, I thought about the last days I’ve spend with humans and animals. When you don’t know if you’ll ever have a picture again or ever see them again you sometimes take a lot of pictures. Who knows why she did it but I hope it brought her comfort and I hope her kid is well.


  2. The only way I can think of making sense of it is that they truly believe in the power prayer and making it known is the only way to get people to pray immediately.

    Although, taking the time take a picture and edit it in instagram makes me question the urgency for prayers and perhaps puts it in the light of attention seeking. At your sick child’s expense.

    The whole thing boggles my mind.


  3. Sometimes, in this age of electronics and families living far from one another, our friends can be people we have never come face to face with. I believe she needed someone, anyone, to assure her that things will be alright and to “hold her hand”.


  4. I can’t help but think she did it for Twitter followers or just some attention. This type of thing seems to be happening more and more and I think it’s pretty gross.


  5. I would buy the whole “hold her hand” argument had she tweeted a quick plea for prayers. She took the time to take a picture, upload it to a photo editing ap, and proceeding to choose a filter for a picture of her unconscious daughter hooked up to numerous monitors in an ambulance. That is not asking for someone to metaphorically hold your hand. That is asking for traffic to your blog and more followers on twitter.


  6. My mom, the saint! Sees the good in absolutely everyone, almost to a fault. I get the hold the hand bit too, it was just the picture.

    Then again, I was told after 9/11 that people shot the images they shot (like of people jumping) to remove themselves from the situation as much as possible. A camera means a small wall. So, maybe it’s that? Numb the pain a bit?

    Somehow, I am reminded me of a famous picture taken by a journalist named Kevin Carter. He later killed himself because of what he saw and often photographed. Here is the picture: (warning: this image will haunt you forever. I has me. Do not click if you’re easily upset):

    He wrote: “I am depressed … without phone … money for rent … money for child support … money for debts … money!!! … I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain … of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners … I have gone to join Ken if I am that lucky.”

    Perhaps he felt better removing himself from the situation using a camera? Maybe it helped him to take picture of such atrocities? At least for a while?

    I’m on another tangent suddenly, aren’t I?

    (That image, ugh. I wish I hadn’t looked again.)


  7. If it helps you any, I had read up on the Kevin Carter image quite exstensively at one point (I was interested in the group of photographers known as the Bang Bang Club) and what I came away with was that this particular picture in real life was not nearly as bad as what it seemed. Yes, the child is clearly in a unimaginable situation, there is no disputing that nor the greater situation at hand. But the image of the vulture stalking the child is more of a trick of the eye from what I’ve read. The bird is not nearly as close to the child as it appears, nor is it closing in on the child which the image suggests.

    Here is alternative account from some of his colleagues:

    I mention this not to belittle the plight of those suffering the effects of famine, or Kevin Carter’s own person torment, but rather to give you a very small piece of mind that perhaps this photo was more about capturing the symbolic rather than literal.

    Regarding the blogger…I can understand trying to reach out to people, I live in the burbs without a car, while my husband commutes to the city for work, so I get feeling totally alone in a very frightening situation, but I really deeply feel if I was in a similar situation my ENTIRE focus would be on my child. At the end of it all, what really matters is that the child got the medical attention she/he needed It doesn’t seem like the mother is neglectful, maybe just not particularly thoughtful in that particular situation.


    1. Thank you, Kim! Thanks for the explanation regarding the vulture image. Yes, it helps.

      I’m with you regarding my attention being on my child. And that attention (I sincerely believe) wouldn’t include a picture. But I’m trying to get it still!


  8. I haven’t seen the picture, so all I have to go by is what I’ve read on your post and comments. I wonder if she was being told to not touch her daughter by the medics and was feeling out of her mind with anxiety. Perhaps taking a photo of the situation helped distract her and keep her hands off when all she wanted to do was grab her daughter and make it all better.

    When my baby was in the NICU (born 6 weeks early and had initial breathing probs), it was torture to not hold him and I took a lot of pictures with my phone. Part of that was to document his early life, share him with friends/family who weren’t permitted to visit, but also to give me something to do, when otherwise I had to fight the urge to pick him up and try to make it all better.


  9. I agree with momhow! However, when I was in a similar but less intense situation than described above I focused all my energy & willpower on my kid. Later (after admitted, etc.) I did take pictures to send to family but did not put on facebook. That seemed like it would just be for attention.


  10. Lissa: Taking pictures of your newborn baby premature or not isn’t the same as taking pictures of your possibly dying child while being take away by paramedics. You just had a baby! Of course you’re going to take pictures of your newborn baby.


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