Thursday, January 27, 2011

On Recollection

"It has been said that crowds are stupid, but mostly they are simply confused, since as an eyewitness the average person is as reliable as a meringue lifejacket." -Terry Pratchett - Unseen Academicals

If I personally were to have a choice of witnesses to a tragedy to talk to, give me the child. Their view is simply what they have seen, normally unclouded by judgement, history, politics and expectations. Certainly intelligence bears into it and the developmental differences of the child. The child also needs be of an age where they can remember and describe events, understanding the difference between the truth and a lie. But they often pick up on things that the adults miss even if, in and of itself, it might not be admissible in a legal setting. Sure the technical detail is not there and children can often mix reality with fantasy, but often the heart of what they experienced is ascertainable, containing details often lost to others.

Those that piece together such places, unfortunately, have had to use such recollections before. You can watch all the TV shows you want, but unless you are a first responder or LEO you don't really realize what it is like. Air laden with smells of fuel perhaps and smoke, stale sweat and the dense coppery smell of death close up. The frantic sounds, shouts and fluid movements of water or people, trickling down to a slow drip as the EMS vehicles move away. Sometimes in a hurry, too often not, the sound expanding away from the hollow rumbles of voices left behind to glean the concrete fields of evidence, searching for words and actions that explain.

Sometimes there is a crowd, sometimes in that crowd is a youngster, looking around, taking it all in, while the adults eyes are frantically forming words in their head while look for a TV camera, or swaying in shock, zombie-like, eyes closed in almost drugged immobility.

A child's recollection is simple, not so much words, but sounds, smell, movement, direction,things others might have missed. With a parents hands hovering near, those movements we all know of protection, it will be asked if the child could give their remembrance, just as was done with any adults that were present, letting them make a statement of what they remember, to define the things already known. Sometimes their statements, made with simple words and hands, are startling in their detail; details that confirm the tangibles that are known at that time. Tangiles that can become evidence. With that the search for truth continues.

For some adults do not do so well in recollection. An event to one person is seen in a totally different way than another. Both believe they are totally accurate and it's often hard to derive the reality from their truths. I've read accounts in the newspaper of events I actively participated in, only to shake my head in wonder at how very inaccurately it was portrayed, the words written for sensation and effect, not for accountability. I've seen it in a court room, a place where even in the scrubbed emptiness, the smell of spent violence, lust, graft and vengeance are discernible. Where even in the quiet you feel the reverberations of badgering and bitterness, sinners and saints, actors in a role, while we the public hope for that one legal expert that can see through all of that to do what is right based on reality, not motivation.

But getting to the heart of the matter is difficult. Look at the media, at some of the written chronicles on the Internet of recent tragedies, and the variances in discussing the same person or event, the same bit of history. Some are honestly detailed yet succinct, while others, especially when they feel they or their cause have been wronged, are so outside the realm of what happened that they do nothing but provoke incredulity.

Tragedies bear their own truth and it is usually NOT what is in much of the mainstream media.

Life is never easy, and finding out why things happen as they do remains something that haunts the edges of not just a crime scene, but our very lives. We want to know, desire it. Yet, unless we look at events with the clear eyes of a child, unmotivated by greed, political leanings or prejudice, we may find that the words we read, the blames being made, are no more sweet deceptions.


  1. Life is never easy, and finding out why things happen as they do remains something that haunts the edges of not just a crime scene, but our very lives.

    Marvelous. Just marvelous.

    As an aside, the latest issue of US Concealed Carry mag has an excellent article on how perception is altered in high stress situations.

    Like when the store is out of SnowBalls.

  2. A child's uncluttered view of the world is an admirable quality in anyone, and something I consider a professional skill too.


  3. This post brought so many things to mind that I falter, trying to formulate a response.

    There's a reason poets & composers have written of "the eyes of a child" - that clear, unclouded view of things they may not understand, but certainly remember. You've captured it well.

  4. My favorite quote.. and after many visits to your blog.. and a few recipes, I offer it you in humble thanks.
    It's from Casteneda..(yea, I know he was a nut..) but I try to live by it. And it works.
    A warrior acknowledges his pain but he doesn't indulge in it.
    The mood of the warrior who enters into the unknown is not one of
    sadness; on the contrary, he's joyful because he feels humbled by
    his great fortune, confident that his spirit is impeccable, and
    above all, fully aware of his efficiency. A warrior's joyfulness
    comes from having accepted his fate, and from having truthfully
    assessed what lies ahead of him.

  5. I would like to add a child's value as a witness is indirect proprtion to how little the interviewer interferes with their recollections.

    A child will tell you what ever they think you want to hear if they come to the conclusion that your just not listening and it doesn't matter what they say.


  6. One of my long time friends is a LEO, 25+ years on the Lakewood Police Dept. He was one of the first responders to enter Columbine H.S. in the aftermath of the Klebold-Harris shootings.

    He spoke with me about it only a few times, mostly when we were far away from the city, hunting antelope or birds.

    Been on site twice during lethal accidents, one involving a pedestrian and vehicle, one involving an acetylene torch and a 55 gal drum that once held lacquer thinner.

    In both, I chose to testify during legal proceedings. Strange how perception is colored by time and the individual psyche.

    "Air laden with smells of fuel perhaps and smoke, stale sweat and the dense coppery smell of death close up.


    "Life is never easy, and finding out why things happen as they do remains something that haunts the edges of not just a crime scene, but our very lives.

    Both are dead on.

  7. I've often wondered if an adult can truely look at things with the eyes of a child, unencumbered by personal views or beliefs, absent of adgenda, uncolored, innocent.

  8. Well, I don't know how your site address got corupted, but it's taken awhile to find you again. And I'm glad I did, considering this crazy world we live in, you are my favorite touch of reason. Your cooking helps also. Feel better soon.

  9. Since witness testimony is generally believed to be so unreliable, why does it continue to get such credibility in court? It seems that every aspect of such testimony should be carefully scrutinized and not simply accepted as fact.

    Is police testimony any more reliable?

  10. Eye Witness to a fatal crash had me, A Sergeant, and a Accident Re-constructionist scratching our heads. His statement had NO connection to the physical evidence we were looking at. I left his statement in the Crash report but had to qualify his statement to the extent none of the physical evidence supported his observation.

  11. There's a lot of truth in this. The eyes of a child are less prejudiced than the eyes of most adults.

    Working in healthcare, every day I read a news article on some medical item and think, "how on earth did they get this published?"


I started this blog so the child I gave up for adoption could get to know me, and in turn, her children, as well as share stories for a family that lives too far away. So please keep it friendly and kid safe. Posts that are only a link or include an ad for an unknown business automatically to to SPAM..