I watched a terribly sad show yesterday about coroners and what they see and do every single day. I guess like EMS, they become immune to the horrors of broken, mutilated bodies…bodies found in different stages of rigor mortis…and others who have been found simply because they have become a foul odor.
Every year in the United States, there is an average of 40 thousand unclaimed bodies that wait in a cold room, covered in plastic with only their feet exposed. A lone toe tag is the only identifying scripture, stating either a Jane or John Doe. Most of them are drug addicts, homeless and mentally ill people.
Those numbers are staggering. These are men, women and yes, even children. They are housed deep inside a building, far away from public view. They don’t make headlines. There are no demonstrations or calls to end the very reasons these people became drug addicts, homeless or mentally ill.
That particular building housed up to 500 bodies. There was row after row, stacked three high. They weren’t animal carcasses. They were human bodies. They once lived, breathed, loved, lost, worried, and most likely felt enormous pain. Now they are laying there, unknown and uncared for. They have fallen between the cracks.
On the rare occasion when a family member can be located, the coroner is most often met with indifference. Society deems them to be unsavory. They have been ignored in life and are ignored in death as well.
Their lives are reduced to a small manila envelope which contains all of their worldly goods. When their possessions are not claimed after a specified amount of time, they are destroyed. This includes money, jewelry, pictures and the clothing they were wearing when they were found.
There are grave sites where these people are buried en masse. There are small 3×5 markers which bear only a number, such as 2013, 2056, 2654, etc. The public is invited to attend when they have a collective ceremony and sometimes, a few make an appearance.
Should these people have mattered? Should there have been somebody who grieved for them when they died?
When did these people become non-entities? When did they become unimportant? When did they no longer matter? Shouldn’t somebody have noticed before they became rotting flesh and bones…and nothing more than a foul smell?
Or maybe at some point in their lives, they decided that they just wanted to vanish. Maybe disappearing into anonymity was their way of escaping a world that didn’t seem to care.
I’ll answer my own questions…in my next post.