August 9, 2001

Sorry for the non-descriptive title, but I'm not even sure this one's going to stick around.

At work, the conversations tend to move from tangent to tangent, and Monday was no exception. We somehow got to talking about things that had aired when they probably shouldn't have. We discussed the Challenger explosion in 1986 that most of us saw on TV, or hear on the radio, live. The station airing the liftoff (CNN?) didn't have much choice though -- it was live and nobody could have known what was going to happen 73 seconds in.

Then we moved on to Budd Dwyer, who was the state treausrer of Pennsylvania in the mid 1980s. He was convicted of federal corruption charges, and faced more than half a century in prison at his sentencing hearing. He called a press conference -- to resign, most people thought -- and lashed out at the people who had helped get him convicted. Then he pulled a largish gun out of an envelope and killed himself. The cameras kept rolling, but only one station (WPXI, here in Pittsburgh) showed the footage on the news that evening.

After some digging, I found a copy of the footage on the Web. I won't link to it here; if you want it, go find it. I checked around the office to make sure no-one was looking over my shoulder, took a deep breath, and watched the 14-year-old event unfold.

The imagery isn't particularly graphic as Dwyer commits suicide -- most of the ... um ... "material" exits the frame and is only visible for a fraction of a second. Much worse is the zoom onto the then-late Dwyer's body. Due to the nature of the injury, blood was pouring out of his nose and mouth.

After many years of seeing Hollywood's mock-ups of death (Leonard's suicide in Full Metal Jacket was surprisingly realistic, now that I've seen the subject of today's missive) the gory nature isn't what bothered me. As I said, the nastiness left the frame almost before I could process what it was. But the fact that I had just watched a person take his own life -- even 14 years after the fact -- left me a little stunned for the rest of the day. Conservatives and Liberals alike can say what they want about fake death, but the real thing is still pretty nasty.

I have the page where I originally found the video loaded in another window, in case I need to verify my facts. The movie is sitting there, waiting to play. If it were just a scene from a movie, I'd have no qualms about watching it again. But given what's in there, I'll say once is enough.

August 8, 2001August 10, 2001