Friday, April 27, 2007

Local Heroine

The communities of Montague, Merrickville, Burritts Rapids and Smiths Falls, as well as the naval family of Master Seaman Roxanne Lalonde will have come together at her funeral to pay their last respects by the time this post is published.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all her family and friends, and those of Grant Gallipeau, the boy she tried so bravely to rescue from the Rideau River. A tragic accident, followed by an act of great courage and a small community loses two of its own.

This tragedy is arguably the most significant thing that has happened to our communities this year. While there is no doubt that the community has rallied around the families, and while floral tributes line the bridge where the accident occurred, the local media has proved to be a disappointment. The Ottawa Citizen, the Ottawa Sun and the Globe and Mail all afforded significant space to this story. Smiths Falls This Week and the Record News gave it fewer column inches despite being local, and in one case didn't even make it the leading story on the front page.

While we do depend on our local media to be eyes and ears at council meetings and to picture school pageants and the like, it would be nice to see them recognising that in a small rural community the newspaper can be more than council minutes and classified ads. The newspaper should in some way be part of the community and reflect its soul and its emotions, as well as the hard facts of news. The silence of the newspapers on what was a momentous event locally says that perhaps they don't recognise or are not ready to fill this role.

Nobody wants intrusive media, or to turn a tragedy into a circus, but I do feel that Roxanne Lalonde and Grant Gallipeau deserved better. May they both rest in peace, and may their families find comfort in the support of their community and the knowledge of the heroism surrounding the tragedy.