Divya Ramesh | Such things (don't) happen
Through My Eyes | When you’re running out of bandages, prevent the wounds
January 14, 2013, 1:05 am·
Through My Eyes
Today is the one-month anniversary of the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
The media has continued to focus on the families that lost their children. Yet while the world reeled from that tragedy and while President Obama reacted by establishing a gun violence task force, a newer tragedy arose — a school shooting in California last week.
The sad truth seems to be that we need a tragedy to occur in order to mobilize change. We should have prevented the disaster. We should have allocated more funding for CeaseFire programs that patrol, protect and start conversations about gun violence in neighborhoods.
Instead, we are rubbing salve on the wounds in hindsight. It doesn’t matter how many teddy bears, pies or Christmas trees we send to Newtown’s families. Those children will never come back. It doesn’t matter that we sympathize with the Taft Union High School teen who is in the hospital. That person is still injured.
Newtown and Taft are only two of the many examples where people have bandaged preventable wounds. In 2010, there was a death in one of Penn’s own fraternity houses, Phi Kappa Sigma, which is known ironically amongst the students as Skulls.
Matthew Crozier, attending a New Year’s Eve party at the house, fell from the second floor — a 30-foot drop — and succumbed to severe head injuries. Crozier’s parents, who believe the accident should have been avoided, reached a legal settlement last month.
“Negligence clearly led to the death of [Matthew Crozier],” said the family’s attorney, Robert Mongeluzzi.
“The fraternity, besides permitting excessive alcohol consumption by minors on its property, was repeatedly directed by the university to upgrade its inadequate railing to conform with building codes and it did nothing.”
With the funeral vigils and words of sympathy that followed what many called a freak accident, it was possible to forget that the death could have been prevented.
The faulty railing could have been replaced and the rules governing fraternity safety compliance could have been more stringent and more strictly enforced.
Still, we waited for a tragedy to occur in order to act on those deficiencies. What difference does it make now that the fraternity has closed down? That will not help bring Crozier back.
While the old adage does teach that prevention is better than cure, the advice is often considered stale and goes unheeded.
Last semester, when a fire broke out in Du Bois College House because of a toaster melting on a burning stove, I wondered why Du Bois — closed up and stuffy as it is — would allow stoves in its rooms in the first place.
Not having stoves in the rooms would have easily prevented the watery mess and displaced residents that followed that incident.
Du Bois has less open space than the high rises have and therefore stoves in Du Bois present a higher risk of starting a fire. The Quad, with its similar wooden rooms, does not even allow candles because they are a fire hazard.
When it comes to smaller things, it is not in our culture to await disaster before acting.
We don’t wait until the car runs out of gas to worry about filling the tank. We don’t wait for the furnace to explode before replacing a filter. We don’t cripple our bodies, struggle to walk and then get the polio vaccine.
Why then, with larger issues, do we wait for the wound to open and then rush to cure it? Why do we wait for devotees to get shot in a Sikh temple, teenagers to get shot in a movie theater and children to get shot in schools to rush to cure the gun crisis? Why do we wait for a student to die before realizing that a rickety staircase was truly unsafe?
As talks over the Newtown and California shootings continue, there are some of us who need to stop reacting. Somehow, we need to develop a sort of foresight that scouts out problems before they occur and find preventative solutions.
This “cure the issue after wounds happen” mentality is not always feasible. There might come a point where there just aren’t enough bandages.
Divya Ramesh is a College freshman from Princeton Junction, N.J. Her email address is email@example.com. You can follow her @DivyaRamesh11. “Through My Eyes” appears every Monday.