Is America Becoming Desensitized? Post 4th Tragedy

The second light show – emergency vehicles

The fourth of July is a special date in the United States. It’s a day when we come together as Americans to celebrate our freedom, and to remember what it took to obtain those rights we all enjoy as citizens. Families gather together for backyard BBQs and swim parties. Parades march down the center of town.  Carnivals and concerts liven up city parks. And come night fall, the fourth ends in a bang―the celebratory fireworks show.

There are so many chances for disaster with celebrations of this nature. Everything from choking on a hot dog to the loss of a life. Yesterday was no different.

As I sat with my family and watched my town’s fireworks show begin, it was immediately clear that something was amiss. Half the fireworks appeared to all go up at once, in the first few minutes of the show. And then one went sideways, toward a house. For the briefest of moments, I was reminded of when I was a kid and my neighbor, and fellow classmate, had played with illegal fireworks and burned down his family home.


It could be worse, though. They could all go off on the ground or in the crowd. Oh wait. The show wasn’t over yet. The remaining fireworks exploded―at ground level. The crowd ohed and awed. It looked amazing! It was also scary. Depending on where you were sitting, it may have looked like hell. Imagine that kind of flash right up in your face.

According to reports, the platform collapsed sending the fiery explosions into the crowd. People sitting in the front row (north side) said the explosions reverberated through their chests. Rocked their ribcages.  The whole thing was over in a matter of minutes.

Warning! This is RAW footage with adult language.

Fireworks―ground level explosions―into the crowd=VERY BAD

My husband and I immediately knew something had gone horribly wrong. We got the kids ready for the long trek back to the car, packing up our gear, and head out. We were concerned our exit would soon be blocked by ambulances, fire trucks, and a solid mass of people all trying to go the same direction. Smoke covered the soccer field used as the staging area, and the lights of emergency vehicles glowed through the haze. Their sirens audible, even above the noisy pitch the disaster stirred in all who were present.

There were people I knew out among the masses, somewhere. Neighbors and friends. One sat right in the front row this year. He was lucky, he didn’t get hit. People near him can’t say the same, when sparks and shrapnel flew into the crowd. Parents grabbed their children and ran for cover.  Twenty-eight people sustained injury (four of them, serious). One young man described it as looking like a war zone.

But here’s the thing that got me, the thing that this post is really about: as I held my daughter’s hand, guiding her past policemen, fire trucks, and hundreds of other people trying to get out, I heard jokes and laughter over the night’s events. I had to wonder, were people becoming so desensitized?

I came home to find numerous ill-conceived tweets and wondered what possessed people to thoughtlessly post in such a manner that they would turn a blind eye to the clear possibility of injured at the event  (I’m going to assume they didn’t know, or didn’t have first-hand experience to know, and were too dense to figure it out from the HUGE clues set before them)? Except, if they were tweeting, then they should know via the same local hashtag―serious business took place here this 4th of July!

One thing I have notices—can’t help to notice, actually, is…when something does happen, everyone stops to record the event for their Facebook or Twitter feed. They need to be one of the first ones to post about it. Get the word out. What happened to being present in the now? Living in the moment with the people who are there with you? Creating memories more often than recording them? Everyone is so busy updating their digital lives, they’re too busy to actually have a real life. Too busy to care or feel about things in any real world. I don’t know about you, but that makes me sad. Where we, as a people, could be headed, and what we could become, saddens me greatly.

As a whole, have we become desensitized to far too many things? Would you say that’s part of the problem with our society today?

As twenty-eight people lay out on the field, receiving treatment, or hobbling to their car looking to make their way to Emergency, or home to call a doctor, people made light of the event , cracked jokes, laughed and started rumors, regarding the truth. I challenge you to never be that person. Always be the better person.

My kids were sad that the fireworks show ended after a mere few minutes, but their hearts hurt for the families of those injured by the explosion. May they never change, and may more of tomorrow’s leaders learn to be as sensitive regarding our fellow man.



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25 thoughts on “Is America Becoming Desensitized? Post 4th Tragedy”

  1. Emma MeadeEmma Meade

    I hate how smartphones have taken over our lives. Everywhere you look, people are tapping away on their phones instead of talking to the people right beside them.

  2. Jennette Marie PowellJennette Marie Powell

    I never think about updating Facebook or tweeting – but then I never think about that anyway. There was an awful accident at the Dayton Air Show last week, when a stunt plane took a nosedive into the ground and burst into flames, immediately killing the wingwalker and her pilot. The first thing the show announcers did was tell people to turn their kids from it so they wouldn’t have to see. No one else was hurt, but you bet people were there getting video – but they were already getting video of the stunts before the accident. A lot of those videos are now being used by the authorities investigating the crash, so there is a positive side to it.

  3. Prudence MacLeodPrudence MacLeod

    Sadly, I believe you may be right, we here in North America (Canadian here) are so desensitized to the pain and heartbreak of others that we are losing our humanity. It’s not about the picture of the person on the ground you put on FB, it’s about the person you helped up from the ground.

  4. Kristy K. JamesKristy K. James

    Yes we are becoming a desensitized world. Many people have been playing extremely violent video games for how long? A couple of decades I’d guess. Movies, television shows, newspapers…they’re all filled with the worst of the worst. But then good news doesn’t cause ratings to skyrocket. Sadly, it seems to take something the magnitude of 9/11 to to wake people up, but even then, the feelings of community and caring only seemed to last a couple of years.

    Cell phones suck. Yes I have one. Yes I use it, but only when I have to. But everywhere I go, people are on them in vehicles, in restaurants and stores. I’ve seen one person trip…and nearly stumble into a busy street, and another young man who made me laugh so hard I literally cried when he looked up from texting…to find his nose about a quarter of an inch from the street sign post. Can’t go to the theater without seeing the glow from phone screens all over the auditorium.

    It all combines to distance everyone. When everything we see is through a lens of one sort or another, we become observers of life rather than participators. 🙁

    • Kristy K. JamesKristy K. James

      I meant to add that cold reactions to tragedies like this make easier to see how something like the Hunger Games could become a reality someday.

  5. Tracey LivesayTracey Livesay

    So sorry you and your family, especially your kids, had to go through that. I’ve thought for a while that we are losing our capacity for sympathy and empathy. It scares me. I think it’s because people don’t focus anymore; they don’t take the time to think how events affect other people. Nothing sticks and settles, it just flies by in 140 characters or a glide of a thumb.

  6. Lynn KelleyLynn Kelley

    How scary, Deborah, for you and your family. I’m glad you weren’t up front where all the damage was done. I hadn’t heard about this yet. Haven’t listened to the news today. I can’t imagine being in the front row and having those fireworks shooting at the audience. Super scary. I hope those that were injured will be all right. How awful for children to have to see that. I’m guessing some of those injured were children. Scary enough for an adult to deal with, but kids are more easily traumatized. 🙁

    I believe many people have become desensitized to tragedies like this. And it blows my mind how people are always checking their phones instead of interacting with the people they’re face to face with. And there’s nothing funny about people getting injured by fireworks. If they were in that front row, they would have had a reality check.

    Your kids are sweet and they’re sensitive. I, too, hope they stay that way, and hope our future leaders won’t be desensitized. Not good.

  7. Jennifer Jensen (@jenjensen2)Jennifer Jensen (@jenjensen2)

    I hadn’t heard about this either – glad you and your kids are okay. But the reason I didn’t hear about it is because of another type of desensitization.

    I tend to ignore TV news, don’t see it on the computer or phone, and catch up on the newspaper several days at a time – when I scan headlines and opening paragraphs and only read completely what interests me. There’s just so much bad stuff out there. I don’t seem to be able to do anything about the worldwide stuff, politics seem to be more of the status quo, no matter who’s in charge, and the media keeps harping on disasters forever, to the point of countless interviews of what might have happened just to fill the time and space. So I tend to stay local, in my thankfully still very sensitized community, and make what difference I can here.

  8. MelindaMelinda

    I don’t feel desensitized personally, and I do all those things. I play video games which some consider violent. I read all kinds of stuff. I’m on my phone a LOT. I’m all over social media. But I can still feel for the human standing next to me or complete strangers I see only via photos or videos on YouTube. I think perhaps a few things are happening in situations like that. Some people have laughter as a coping mechanism. They joke or make light because the reality is too disturbing in that moment. It doesn’t mean they don’t feel. (I tend to giggle when I’m overwhelmed so I understand). Some are self-focused and so it takes them a bit to process that yes, those are humans and yes, they are hurting. I think those types of people have always been that way. I don’t think games or social media or smart phones changed them…it just points them out faster. And, let’s face it, some are just…not bright. They’ve always been there too. I’m not sure human behavior has really changed all that much over the years, but our ability to see it or experience it instantly has.

    • Laura RitchieLaura Ritchie

      I agree with Melinda. People will often reveal who they really are in the most difficult times. I can’t help but think of the Boston Marathon bombing. Some people stayed calm while others panicked. Some stood and stared. Some started recording. There were people who cared, people who didn’t… and even a brave few who ignored their own safety, and headed to the front lines to help those in need.

      I can’t help but think of the parable of the Good Samaritan. He wasn’t the first person to see that guy in the ditch. He was just the first person who cared enough to do anything about it.

      Debra, this sounded like a frightening experience, and it’s good that you got your family out of there. A panicked crowd can be a dangerous place for little ones. I am so thankful you are all safe.

  9. Marcy KennedyMarcy Kennedy

    I definitely agree with you. I think it comes down to people not being able to live in the moment anymore. Instead of experiencing that was happening, and feeling the pain of those who were hurt, they were on their phones, etc. I have a cell phone for emergency use, but I’ve made the decision to have a phone that can’t connect to the internet. I can’t tweet on it. I can’t access Facebook. I can text, but it’s awkward. In other words, I’m forced to only use it for emergency calls and focus on what’s happening around me.

    • Jolyse BarnettJolyse Barnett

      Our family, too, Marcy. I sometimes feel like people look at me strangely because I have a flip-phone…but I don’t care. 🙂

      • Marcy KennedyMarcy Kennedy

        Mine’s a flip phone too, and I’m content with it 🙂

  10. Sharron Riddle HoudekSharron Riddle Houdek

    Thank you for posting this. You have said many things I have thought myself lately. It is very sad that people can joke about tragedies. I also agree, smart phones can be a great thing but they have also given people the excuse to be rude to one another. A very timely topic.

  11. Kassandra LambKassandra Lamb

    Scientific research has established that violent media (TV and especially video games) desensitize people, and I personally think there should be limits placed on violence in media (we don’t allow blatant distribution of pornography; why do we allow violence?)

    But I also agree with Melinda. Some members of my grandparents’ generation were convinced that TV’s were the invention of the devil. There will always be jerks and there will always be new challenges in our society.

    A big part of the problem is the quick and easy access to media. When others see someone acting like a jerk on social media that normalizes it. It’s okay to act that way then, in their minds.

    We need to strife to rise above that level!

  12. Karen McFarlandKaren McFarland

    First, I am so glad that you and your family Debra got away safe. I think that when you are involved in a catastrophe like that, you need to put the needs of your children ahead of everything else. Cause that’s what parents do. That said, I’m sure you wish you could have help more in some way. But when it is an emergency, it makes perfect sense to get out of harms way and let the professionals do what they’re trained to do. What a nightmare that must have been. I cannot even imagine the horror. And yes, I definitely feel that the violence we are exposed to through the media, no matter what venue it is, is desensitizing us. People no longer put enough value on how precious life is anymore. 🙂

  13. Jolyse BarnettJolyse Barnett

    First of all, I’m thankful that you and your family weren’t injured in that fireworks snafu. I’m always nervous–the “what-if” person in any group–about large events like this where there’s a potential for things to go badly. I’m concerned about our society’s obsession with real-time posting, but generally I’m thinking about how it takes parents’ attention and caregiving away from their children. You make a good point about the significance of living the event, rather than separating yourself from it and being a reporter/recorder. I think that’s where the desensitizing comes in, and I’d go one step further and link this to our obsession with “reality” shows. Many want their 15 minutes of fame, at any cost. I also agree with Kassandra, about the stats related to violence on TV, movies, and video games, especially at such young ages, (I can’t tell you how many parents tell me their 5, 7, or 10 year-old just HAD TO HAVE Call of Duty for Christmas so they got it for them, even though it’s rated M for Mature.)
    Sending positive thoughts and prayers for the people affected by that fireworks tragedy.

  14. PatriciaPatricia

    That is indeed horrible. I something about this on the news, but I chose not to watch it. I can only take so much news coverage and that I slink away to write or read or do something that makes me feel good.

    I agree that America, or probably more correctly, humanity, is becoming desensitized. Everything is so “in your face” these days with all of the technology and stuff. It’s impossible to avoid foul language (I’m so guilty of this), sex scenes or sexual jokes on t.v. and in movies, and don’t even get me started on violence, blood, guts, gore. It’s sickening. What happened to I Love Lucy, Happy Days, or other shows that were wholesome and had a positive message?

    Thanks for taking the high road, Debra and for passing that good moral character on to your children.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  15. Krystal WadeKrystal Wade

    I think you’re absolutely right. I think our society is suffering greatly right now. I think our children are being raised with barely any rules, any morals, any respect, any anything! After the fireworks on Thursday, I watched a bunch of drunk pieces of crap ridicule a Middle Eastern family trying to park their van. These young people called them names, cussed at them, made funny sounds trying to “imitate” the way they speak. I cried. I cried for my children. I cried for their children. I cried for the people in the van. When my husband pulled up to where the family was trying to get in, we waved them by. I wanted to get out an apologize for the way they were treated. I wanted to hug them. But they were in a hurry. In this same parking lot, my pregnant sister-in-law watched an older gentleman, a MILITARY VETERAN, stare down hecklers who called him an “Old Man” “Aren’t you out past your bedtime?” “Go home you old fart”. A man who served this country, gave those assholes the RIGHT to call him names and make fun of him, who put his life on the line to enable the crap going on here! If I had seen this, I would have gotten out of my car. I would have probably been hit over the head with a beer bottle, but it would have been worth it. What’s wrong with people? Everyone is so careless, so loud and rude and emotionless. Everyone wants fashion and fame and alcohol and drugs. Our young people are OUT OF CONTROL! And so many of our older people ALLOW this to happen. Social media is both a great tool and a horrible, horrible destructive way of living life. People are more interested in being the first to post, earning the “cool star” for being in the middle of the action, than they are in HELPING. Lately I’ve shied away from Twitter and Facebook because I’m sick of seeing this. But this generation of young people are in much more trouble than what those two sites could have caused. People don’t want to be hard on their children, they don’t want to treat them the same horrible way their parents treated them. If a kid does wrong in school and gets punished, parents FREAK OUT and sue. When their kid DESERVED punishment. When kids do something horrible and they’re on the football team, the coaches overlook it so they can play in the big game (then they go on to kill people when they’re in the NFL!) Society is suffering, all right. The best you can do is raise your children right. You try to interfere with how these other idiots do it and they’ll label you with one of these: Christian, Bigot, Racist, Judgmental, Sensitive, Asshole, Old-Fashioned, Republican, Etc. We’d all live a happier life if we just disconnected. If we cared less about tv and the Internet and more about quality time with our loved ones. I could rant about society for a long time, but don’t tell society that. Because if there’s one thing society can’t handle, it’s the truth.

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