The train crash at the weekend in Szczekociny turned the eyes of the world towards Poland once more, with a transport accident once again the cause. With a significant number of people losing their lives and others injured, 3 days of national mourning was announced once again. However, it seemed to me that Poland was all too ready for handling such a tragedy, and that even now, 5 days after the crash, it feels like Poland is moving on.
The first signs I noticed of the ‘preparedness’ for a catastrophe came about while watching the rolling news reports on Sunday morning, approximately 12 hours after the crash itself. The news channels such as Polsat News, and TVN24, already had computer-generated images of the crash. Furthermore, there were experts in mental health commenting on the psychological effect of the crash victims and families, while other emergency medical experts were describing how they would have reacted had they been on the scene.
When the comments were gathered from the prominent politicians, one that stood out was Donald Tusk saying something like “…This is the worst disaster since… the last such tragedy”. That comment alone made me think back towards recent times to other such disasters, and the more regular occurrence of such crashes. Finally when the flags were rolled out to be hung at half-mast, it showed how quickly people were willing to move on. One colleague in work asked why the flags had been hung outside of buildings, despite we having touched on the topic of the train crash in an earlier conversation a few hours beforehand.
So, the question is: has catastrophe become too common in today’s society, or has Poland become tired of tragedy?
I would suggest that it would be a little of both. In today’s all-information society, the world tends to know the most breaking news before friends and families of those affected would know. Being able to provide simulations of crashes within a few hours shows how fast we have moved on from trying to confirm bad news, to a state where people are almost awaiting the next piece of bad news.
There is a thin line between not enough news and too much news though, and I would suggest Poland is on the edge of too much news and too many tragedies. With situations such as Pope John Paul II dying and the Smolensk crash happening in recent years, it feels as though Poles have used up their tears. Thus, it feels like Szczekociny didn’t get as much attention as it might have. One might even say that without Euro 2012 upcoming, you would not have the transport minister saying that trains are fine. Thus for a moment more, Szczekociny should get a touch more attention, considering those that suffered and lost lives, but without the computer simulations and medical emergency experts giving advice on how they would theoretically handle such a catastrophe.