As I was driving along I-71 during a visit to Kentucky, where I lived and worked for many years, I passed one of the state's grimmest landmarks. It's a roadsign marking the spot where 27 people were killed in 1988 when a wrong-way drunk driver rammed a church bus, igniting the gas tank.
The disaster quickly became a signature event for one of the most successful public-safety movements of the decade, a crackdown against drunken driving. It also served to boost vehicle safety, specifically by adding protection around gas tanks, because it wasn't the direct collision that caused the mass casualties, it was the driver's collision with a relatively exposed gas tank that set off the deadly, fast-moving fire.
I've interviewed survivors of that crash, and one day I also rode on an assignment along I-71 with one of the Courier-Journal photographers who had to take some of the difficult photos from the aftermath of the event. I recall him saying that someone tried to persuade him to stop taking photos because of the sensitivities involved. He responded that people needed to know what happened so that they could learn about what caused it and prevent it from happening again. As I recall, the intervenor was persuaded by that explanation.
That was nearly 30 years ago, and it seems like the country was in such a different place. Even though there were all kinds of questions about media behavior in the Gary Hart era, there was still an opportunity for a regular journalist and a regular citizen to have a conversation, learn about each others' concerns and be the better for it. Now so many people wouldn't even give a journalist a chance to explain without denouncing him or her on social media. May we get back to a place where more of us could talk to each other.