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Today marks what should have been the second birthday of a little girl lost through the poor judgement of her mother's birth team.

I am re-posting this from the archives in her honour.

This year seems to have been filled with tragedy.

Yesterday some long overdue papers were released about Hillsborough and Keith’s was the first post I saw talking about it on Facebook. I asked him why it mattered, surely nothing changes the fact that these people died? Knowing someone was to blame doesn't help heal the hole they have left. If anything surely it reopens all the old wounds?

It certainly did for him, he admitted to me he’s been crying for only the second time in the decade I have known him.

What struck me was the similarity to a tragedy much closer to home: A friend lost a child in a catalogue of errors that has only very recently been admitted.

That event has a similar impact on me that reliving the day of Hillsborough does for Keith: It is a visceral, emotive reaction that can’t be quantified and never quite seems to lose its sting.

I go past the cemetery every day on the way home from work and feel a hard ball of unfathomable sadness in my gut that desperately wants to consume me.

It makes me think about the nature of tragedy, about a word that can be used so freely and in such a variety of ways. I used to think that tragedy had to come with a high body count and a heart wrenching back story: Now I feel differently.

Now I feel like the only way humans can truly process the enormity of grief and loss is one story at a time. Anything more than that just takes on the numbing quality of a Hollywood blockbuster.

This week was another 9/11 anniversary and I still can’t bring myself to watch a programme about what happened.

I was on the other side of the world that day, sitting on a beach in Mauritius. I came into my hotel room to change for lunch and turned the TV on just in time to watch the second plane hit. I remember my eyes flicking from the channel logo, to the burning buildings, over and over, my brain not quite able to work out why CNN were showing a film. I didn't make lunch, I barely made dinner, because I was haunted by images of people jumping out of the windows and falling to their deaths.

Those people were my tragedies. Those and the answerphone messages that were picked up over the hours and days that followed.

(c) Dear Photograph
I once saw a programme about the relatives of some of the worst culprits of the Third Reich.

I was touched by the tragedy of those people, the quiet (and I’m sure to some unworthy) tragedy of lives destroyed by association. Families asked to bear an impossible burden through no fault of their own.

I saw a man (the child of a camp commandant) break down in front of a group of Israeli students overwhelmed by the guilt of what his father had done. Broken people all, united by grief.

The 34 year old me sees the subtlety of tragedy in a way the 23 year old me never could; in every death that takes away from what life “should be”.

It sees it in a single lonely fatality or the slaying of a thousand. It clamours for life to be fair, and rages that it isn't.

Originally posted in September 2012

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