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I’m too young to remember Baby Jessica, who fell down a well in 1987. We’re actually roughly the same age, though, and her story has been referenced in pop culture so often I feel as though I remember it even if I didn’t watch the coverage myself live. From what I’ve always heard described, America was absolutely transfixed by the story of the toddler who fell down the well, and the rescue attempts to bring her to the surface safely. I have seen variations of the same kind of human interest story take hold of the nation’s consciousness: the Chilean miners, the Malaysian airplane, the Thai junior football team trapped in the cave. But here in America, it’s been a while since we’ve had a human interest story like these. In a rational world, the Surfside apartment collapse would have been that; with rescuers working tirelessly to try to find any survivors in the wreckage where over 150 people are reported missing.
The morning after the collapse, when I first saw the news, I assumed that the building was uninhabited, perhaps under construction, given the muted response by the national media to the disaster. Soon, I realized this was a very large building packed with residents that pancaked in seconds with no warning and no time to escape. And yet, the wall-to-wall coverage I was expecting never materialized. As they do, partisans have used the collapse to score any political points they can find: