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Voicing Silence 7

Saturday, February 09, 2008

A quick tale 207

Calamity Jane

If I told you my name, you would recognise me straightaway. If you saw me, I wouldn’t even have to tell you my name. You would know me from the thousands of news reports on television. I first came into prominence during that terrorist attack on that passenger train that killed 178 people three years ago today. I was on that train on my way to see a friend who’d just had a baby. One minute I was on the seat and the next I was thrown against the window. I can’t remember much from the first few minutes except that there was a deathly quiet where there had been the reassuring rhythm of the train. My mouth felt dry and my throat was burning and for some reason I found myself patting my chest. Probably because I was having trouble breathing. It all seems so hazy. But I don’t know how I found the strength to raise myself to my feet, locate my handbag, fish out my mobile and film what had just happened. I called my boss at the tv station where I worked as a runner and told him between rasping bouts of cough what I’d witnessed. Within minutes news had caught on and before I knew it, I had become the poster-girl for that tragedy.

Over the years, I’ve had to relive those harrowing moments several times on television, print and on radio. To be honest, I can no longer remember how exactly it happened but I’ve come to believe in my own version of it. Obviously, I’ve added a few dramatic touches here and there for effect. Two Christmases ago, I even brought out my memoirs of that fateful day and you may recall how the book zoomed straight to the non-fiction bestseller list. These days, I have a clutch of awards to my credit and I regularly report from war-torn areas of the world. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll be caught out. I can see the salacious tabloid headlines accusing me of profiting me from a disaster. There will be prime-time TV shows dedicated to how I milked the tragedy. So called snoop journalists will not even spare my garbage bins in a bid to unearth filthy breaking news. My boyfriends will be quizzed till they confess to how I revelled in new found celebrity status while scores of families mourned the loss of loved ones. Yes, I can see it all lurking in the not-too distant future. But for now, I have a job to do. So if you’ll excuse me, I have another mishap to cover.