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Fatal Porch Collapse in Chicago Kills 12

I had a link to this story in the Sun-Times, but of course it’s expired by now. But I think you can get the gist of my opinion just from the headline.

Isn’t your first reaction to think “those people should’ve known better than to…?” Just like with the nightclub tragedies of a few months ago, it’s our way of compartmentalizing people different from us (in those cases, urban black clubbers and/or mulletheads, in this case Lincoln Park yuppies) and convincing ourselves that we would have better sense than to join 100 other people and a couple of kegs on a wooden fire escape.

But when herd mentality takes over, a lot of us will go along with the crowd, because if they’re doing it, it must be all right. Just like Mom suggested: if all my friends jumped off a cliff, maybe I might, too. I would also think that the building where this party was held had a rickety-looking metal fire escape, there might not be so many people on it. But we’re now pretty much conditioned to think that a structure built with treated lumber, that resembles the decks now built onto many homes, is a deck, and therefore we move the party there without a second thought. I’m sure quite a few decks on single family homes have collapsed over the years, but because many are no more than a few feet off the ground, there are usually no fatalities like this one.

To compound the case, the local news last night made frequent mention of the fact that the owners of the building were based in Canada and “could not be reached for comment.” Now that sure makes them sound like a couple of greedy absentee slumlords. But gee, maybe the owners couldn’t be reached because TV reporters were trying to call a business office on a Sunday?

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