Media reporting of stories that involve injuries and trauma are always (necessarily) incomplete. Injuries can be incidental to the story or narrative that is being focalised, and, as such, may appear as a vestigial detail in a report. It is well-nigh impossible to capture the magnitude of the impact on each individual casualty. The word 'casualty' signals that disturbing (but unavoidable) semantic quality of being reducible to a statistic - a part of a tally. A report about a terrorist attack or a mass casualty incident will include some details of the trauma inflicted on a few victims or survivors, but these threadbare details are minuscule and inevitably inadequate markers of the 'reality' of the experience and impact. It is impossible to convey the magnitude of the experience of injury and trauma, and it is completely unrealistic to expect to understand what it was like for each individual person. However, that desire to know and sense of needing to know and understand the experience - of wanting the elusive description of trauma to be fully comprehensive and comprehensible - can be quite insistent.
To mark the one-year anniversary of the 20 January 2017 Bourke Street attack in Melbourne - in which the attacker drove a speeding car into a busy pedestrian thoroughfare, killing six and wounding thirty people - some media channels have told the stories of some of the victims and survivors, allowing the latter to reflect on their recollections of the day and the aftermath. One of the survivors, a thirty-something year-old man, was hit by the speeding car and thrown some meters, flying, into a taxi. He crashed headlong into the taxi and then collapsed onto the ground, badly hitting his head. He managed to crawl onto the kerb and into a building before blacking out. The report described that, upon regaining consciousness and emerging from his concussion in hospital, he was determined to be in a stable condition. The skeletal fractures that he'd suffered in the attack were attended to. The report summarised that, one year since this incident, this man had resumed normal life. He is now OK.
It is hard to explain how inadequate this description is. Knowing full well that all such descriptions must of necessity be incomplete and inadequate, the gaps and fissures that mark the surface of this account render the words hollow. What does it mean to be normal again after this transformative experience of trauma that inflicted brain injury, with potentially long-lasting repercussions and lingering trauma that is imperceptible to others but ever-present for the survivor? The comforting and reassuring claim of a return to normalcy is belied by the original description. However, our desire for resolutions is an overpowering one, and we cannot, in the space of a few sentences, adequately reflect the unresolved and irresolvable nature of trauma.