The news event of the week will undoubtedly be the untimely death of Michael Jackson. I never listened to his music (other than in the movie Free Willy), never practiced his famous dance steps, and never took a picture of his wax likeness at Madame Tussaude's in New York City last year. But he was a child of my generation and his influence in popular music and culture cannot be denied.
I lived a life free of radio and television as a child in South Africa. Television was not introduced in that country until 1971 (ref) and I never even heard of it until I came to Canada. We left Durban, rounded the tip of Africa and crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a four week journey on a Norwegian freighter. We were entering the St. Lawrence River getting ready to arrive at our destination of Montreal when the captain reported the death of Marilyn Monroe to the passengers. I didn't have a clue who she was, but still remember the reaction on the ship to the shocking news.
That was my introduction to the power of the media.
Not long after that, I was badly frightened by the events surrounding John F. Kennedy's assassination which was likely the first major event to be followed minute by minute on network television. I watched the funeral on my grandmother's TV and had nightmares for months about Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby.
I remember the other assassinations of the 1960's and the huge public responses to the untimely deaths of Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and Princess Diana. Many other celebrities have died tragically in my lifetime, but these three affected the world the most in my opinion. Michael Jackson's death is likely the first where breaking news, misinformation and comments were seen first on the internet and then Facebooked and Twittered endlessly.
The media has the power to create and destroy larger than life personalities. But each "celebrity" is someone's child, brother, sister, parent, or friend, just like everyone else. I see the face of death often and each visit is tragic in an individual way. Life is precious and each moment a gift to be celebrated, loved, shared and lived to the fullest.