Early this morning I found myself in seat 43E toward the end of a horrible red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Atlanta.
Because I can’t sleep on planes, red-eyes are unbearable (yet occasionally necessary) torture. It’ll be 3 am, and I look to the left—everyone sleeping. To the right—everyone sleeping. And there I am, surrounded yet all alone, desperate for the plane to land.
Anyhow, in the midst of airline hell, I started watching CNN’s coverage of an absolutely devastating story. This past Friday evening, a small Piper PA-34 plane crashed in a wooded area in Kuttawa, Kentucky. There were five people aboard, and four died. The one survivor was Sailor Gutzler, a 7-year-old girl. The four victims: Her dad (the pilot), her mom, her sister and her cousin. Again—devastating.
CNN’s story focused a bit on the crash, but mainly on the aftermath, when Sailor climbed from the wreckage, called for her family, then walked nearly a mile through the dark woods. It was 38 degrees, and she was wearing one sock, no shoes, a T-shirt and shorts. This, from the Washington Post: “Police said she hiked over two embankments, climbed a hill and crossed a creek bed. Then she saw a light, which led her to Larry Wilkins’s home. Wilkins, 71, was watching TV at home Friday night when Sailor knocked gingerly on his front door. His two dachshunds began to bark. When he answered, he found Sailor. Her nose was bleeding. Her arms and legs were covered in scrapes and scratches. She was crying. ‘She told me that her mom and her dad were dead, and she was in a plane crash, and the plane was upside down,’ he told NBC News. ‘She asked if she could stay here. I said, ‘Honey, what can I do for you?’ I got a wash cloth and cleaned her up. And of course called 911.'”
There is nothing positive about this story. Not one single thing. Yes, the girl survived. But her family is dead. She is all alone. It’s the absolute worst thing ever.
But not in CNN Land.
Nope, in CNN Land everything has a glow. This likely has to do with some focus group that pointed toward positive spins attracting viewers between the ages of something and something important to advertisers. Once upon a time, news was news. You reported what happened and allowed viewers to draw their own conclusions. That, sadly, was long ago.
Hence, anchor John Berman’s interview with Wilkins. “I didn’t do anything that you wouldn’t do,” Wilkins said, “or anybody you know probably wouldn’t do if a small child comes to your door in that kind of condition.”
It was a great quote, and also 100-percent true. I can’t think of one person—anywhere—who would turn away a 7-year-old girl whose family had just died. Wilkins did the right thing, the good thing. But it wasn’t remarkable—it was human. Had he told Sailor to bug off … now, that’d be noteworthy.
Anyhow, Berman couldn’t leave a quote alone. He ended the segment with something along the lines of, “No, Mr. Wilkins. You did something very important.” Pause for dramatic impact. “You cared.”
Which wasn’t the worst moment. Nope, the worst belonged to Michaela Pereira, Berman’s colleague, who summed up the story by letting us all know, “there are angels among us.”
I believe she was trying to imply that miracles happen, and here was proof.
Yet a 7-year-old girl now growing up without her family isn’t a miracle.
It’s a tragedy.