Grey's Anatomy and Tucson: We're All the Wife in the Waiting Room
By Morgan Shanahan on January 13, 2011
I can't believe I'm about to start a blog post this way...especially THIS blog post, but it's kind of a poignant metaphor, if you can take a step back.
So, do you watch Grey's Anatomy? (Oof, that stung. Moving on...)
Last week, the show that stole my heart in its first season, only to crush it somewhere in its third -- and still I keep coming back for more -- aired an eerily timed January premiere. Its themes and plot lines turned out to be very similar to the shooting in Arizona just two days later. And I've gotta be honest. It moved me.
The gist was this: The team at Seattle Grace -- still feeling the emotional trauma of its own shooting spree just six months earlier at the hands of a bereaved widower -- is tasked with saving the lives of 26 victims of a man who opened fire at a nearby university that morning. This episode shifted focus from the victims and the shooter to the loved ones in the waiting room. In what was probably Ellen Pompeo's best moment of the series, Meredith puts Derek in his place when he is flip about her commitment to updating "the wife in the waiting room." Here's the transcript:
Derek: Since when are you so interested in updating the wife in the waiting room while [in surgery]?
Meredith: Since I was the wife in the waiting room, Derek. I mean, honestly... have you even noticed that I went through a trauma too? I was the wife in the waiting room, Derek. And it so hard to be the wife in the waiting room, so hard that I walked into the OR while the shooter had a gun to you and told him to shoot me instead. That’s how hard it is to be the wife in the waiting room.
Meanwhile, one of the residents has to come to terms with the fact that the seemingly kind-hearted mother of the shooter, still in tear-streaked shock after learning that her son was in fact the perpetrator and NOT one of his victims, was in pain too, and deserved the same respect and empathy as the rest of those waiting for news of their loved ones.
A few days later, when I read reports of Jared Lee Loughner's stunned parents hiding out in their house -- his mother unable to get out of bed, his father clinging to a neighbor convulsing in tears -- my thoughts were brought back to that Grey's episode. So eerily similar. And filmed in a vacuum, its creators unaware of the tragedy that would strike our nation less that 48 hours after its original airing.
And I thought of this:
Image courtesy ABC
It's the moment where Meredith brings the loved ones of the victims, anxiously waiting for news, to see the candlelight vigil being held in front of the hospital. All those people. All that love. All that good. Coming together from something so tragic, so horrific, it has the capacity to send an entire country into mourning.
That's been my long-winded way of saying this:
Right now, we're all the wife in the waiting room. We're clamoring for every bit of information on Gabrielle Gifford's condition, and we're shedding tears for the loss of Christina Taylor Green. We're fighting to understand the actions of someone who was deeply deeply ill, his repeated cries for help ignored to tragic end, and we're desperately searching for something to blame -- chiding ourselves that we didn't see it coming. This tragedy, this trauma -- it's real for all of us.
And if there's a poignant truth to be found in an episode of Grey's Anatomy, what Meredith said to that waiting room full of frantic family members is good advice to us all -- "You've got a long night ahead of you; it's important for you to take care of one another right now."
Morgan (The818) is a blogger and screenwriter living in Los Angeles. She overshares her personal life -- complete with curse words -- at The818.com, talks art and design over at Cargoh.com, and tweets: @the818.
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