Only a day after the New York Post cried “Enough!” Terri Schiavo complied, ending a brief life and the intense media circus that has surrounded her impending death. Well, check that; maybe it isn’t ending. The banner on the Fox News web site (” Terri Schiavo’s death—reaction and the continuing debate on FNC”) hints that while the prayer circles may disperse from Woodside Hospice, the story isn’t going to go away.
Her silent struggle now ended, how to remember Terri? Fox, ABCnews.com, and CNN.com featured images of a smiling woman in the prime of life. CBSNews.com offered a shot of her more recent, blank stare. MSNBC ran with the familiar picture of Terri smiling—or appearing to smile—at her mother.
When a very public death occurs, it is always interesting to look at the leads of the newspaper stories that chronicle it. Most likely, the reporters have been writing and editing that lead in their heads for days. After all, her death was inevitable, and you’d want to get it just right. That’s not easy though. How do you sum up in a few words what it is that makes this passing different from the other hundreds of deaths across our country today?
The big papers sounded remarkably the same. The New York Times had: “Terri Schiavo, the severely brain damaged Florida woman who became the subject of an intense legal and political battle that drew responses from the White House to Congress to the Vatican, died today, 13 days after her feeding tube was removed on the order of a state court judge.”
The Los Angeles Times went with: “Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman kept alive for 15 years by a feeding tube, died today after a prolonged courtroom battle and an extraordinary effort by President Bush and Congress to have her feeding tube reinserted.” Compare that to the Washington Post: ” Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman whose condition ignited a protracted legal struggle, died today at a Florida hospice, 13 days after her feeding tube was removed under a court order.”
The sameness makes sense. What can be said that hasn’t already been over the days and days of court battles, prayer protests and waiting?
Now, or in a few hours anyway, the area outside the hospice where Terri died will resemble so many other places in America where the 15 minutes of fame have come and gone, like the pad where Elian Gonzales stayed, or the federal prison where Tim McVeigh was killed. The grass will be trampled and there’ll probably be weathered poster board and empty plastic water bottles around. Police tape will hang limp from the trees. It’ll feel lonely and all too quiet—apropos, at last, to a dead story and an ended life.
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Judicial Murder: Schiavo’s crime was being disabled, voiceless, and at the disposal of our media
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