A Big Bang

9 July 2001

Saw the remains of an ex­plo­sion last night. This is not an un­em­ployed person’s I- am- easily- amused exaggeration: this was a gen­uinely big bang.

My buddy Christine’s a re­porter for the Herald-Sun. At the moment she’s on the midnight-till-dawn police-beat. Each night she loads up with a police-radio scanner, several mobile phones, fags, and cash. The scanner tells her where to go. The phones she uses to call the police-beat re­porters of other news organisations. The cash is for coffee and grub. Most nights not much happens–a few burglaries, a cat gets stuck up a tree, maybe a house fire. (If there’s smoke inhalation, it might get run as a brief; oth­er­wise it’s not news, and you’re out of luck.)

Brad’s been wanting to go see what Chris does for quite some time. Last night, after playing some Backgam­mon with some fine & friendly people, we hooked up with Chris about 3.30. She was on her way to Pascoe Vale South for a fire: four shops on fire, she told us, debris all over the road.

When we got there, the fire was over. (She’s not seen flames, ever.) But there were three fire engines on the road, more than that in police cars, various uni­formed folk wan­der­ing about, debris on the road, and a few clumps of by-standers. Four shops were com­pletely black inside, and there were broken windows a hundred meters down the street.

Chris quizzed the by-standers. What can you tell me about the bang?, she asked. When­ever witness are asked to de­scribe some event, they often de­scribe it in terms of some other event they have no per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence of. Why is this? Last night we heard that the ex­plo­sion was like a truck coming through the window, an aero­plane crash­ing into the backyard, or–most dramatically–“like Armageddon.” Are any of these de­scrip­tions an im­prove­ment upon “gas explosion”?

Chris’s story was on the front page of the PM edition; I got some photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. (4) is of Chris in­ter­view­ing Peter Robertson, the owner of the funeral parlour. He got in­ter­viewed (for TV) because he had a cute dog. The ABC cam­era­man later re­marked that he’d wished Peter had said the bang was loud enough to wake the dead.