Over on the National Post‘s Full Comment blog, Lorne Gunter wants to know whether the justice Zofia Cisowski seeks for her son, Robert Dziekanski, “include[s] questions into her own role into her son’s death.”
Now, notwithstanding Gunter’s use of the word “role,” he stresses that he’s “not saying her actions helped kill her son.” Nice of him. But he “can’t conceive of being in her position” and, inter alia, not asking airline staff whether he had been on the plane; not asking Customs if he had been cleared; not “call[ing] someone in Poland who would have known whether he made the flight”; not generally “making more of a fuss”; and finally, giving up and going home to Kamloops.
Where to begin? “Making a fuss” is not usually mentioned among the most effective problem-solving strategies at modern day airports, the most glaring example of where it can lead being, um, Robert Dziekanski’s death. She went through all the proper, civilized channels to find out what was going on, and got nowhere. The Post‘s account:
As her son was clearing primary inspection, the anxious mother made her first trip to an arrivals-level information desk to inquire about her son. She was told the immigration process often caused delays, and that she needn’t worry yet. So she waited.
As the hours passed, she returned to the information desk at least twice more and, finally, asked to speak with a supervisor. She was told to go up an escalator to a departures-level info desk.
Somewhere between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., she convinced one of the information officers to page her son, but the officer mispronounced his name so poorly she worried he would not understand his own name. Despite asking, she was not allowed to speak over the PA system herself. Even had she been given the microphone, however, her words would not have reached his ears, because the public address system did not broadcast into the customs hall where he was waiting.
As she sought help at the information desks, the man who drove her to Vancouver — who spoke fluent English — walked into a customs and immigration area to ask whether anyone there could help. He learned nothing.
Two hours later, at 9:30 p.m., he returned, picked up a phone and again spoke to an official. It is unclear who he spoke to, but according to Mr. Kosteckyj, the lawyer, he was told: “I can tell you that there’s no Polish immigrant here tonight.”
As for this mysterious “someone in Poland who would have known whether he made the flight,” Gunter seems to have invented him or her out of whole cloth.
All that said, there are certainly things Ms. Cisowski could have done differently that might have caused her son not to die. She could have phoned in a bomb threat, for instance, in hopes he’d be flushed out in the general exodus. She could have doused herself in gasoline and threatened to set herself ablaze if someone didn’t immediately go behind the impenetrable airport security wall and look for her son. But those would have been crazy things to do. After all, even if she suspected that her son was stuck behind the wall, bewildered and possibly in psychological distress, she’d have no cause to suspect that he’d be treated by Canadian police in a manner that might eventually lead to him dying. Or, as Gunter puts it, “it would be irrational to assume that just because you did not meet up with a relative as planned, he would die in a confrontation with police.”
Well, exactly. And the Mounties in question had no idea whether Dziekanski’s mother was alive or dead, let alone where on earth she was located. So why are we even talking about this? Oh, right. Because Gunter “can’t conceive” of doing as little as Robert Dziekanski’s mother did on October 13, 2007, to find her son. Well, we can’t conceive of watching figure skating on television or wanting to be a stock broker—but you won’t find us backhandedly questioning the moral fibre of those who do. Different strokes for different folks, we say, so long as we can all live safely in the knowledge that we won’t get Tasered and tackled, and then maybe die, just for pitching a fit in an airport. We suspect that’s the sort of justice Ms. Cisowski is after—but then, we can’t conceive of being in her situation, so we wouldn’t presume to know.