Horror on the Hudson

April 13, 2011 1:32:06 PM PDT
Back in the days when he obsessed with death, the great songwriter Jackson Browne unearthed and then delivered some haunting lyrics.

"I don't know what happens when people die," he sang. "Can't seem to grasp it as hard as I try. It's like a song I can hear playing right in my ear - that I can't sing, but I can't help listening."

The song was "For A Dancer" - and it talks about Browne's feeling at a funeral where "I can't help feeling stupid standing 'round, crying as they ease you down."

That I remember the words 35 years later I suspect says much about the power of his words, and much about my own feelings about death. Feelings that are, I presume, not much different than most people's.

Browne wrote once that, "they say in the end, it's the blink of an eye." It might be like that at the last instant, but of course we know it's not always like that, in terms of the process of dying.

It's not the news business that constantly brings death to the airwaves. It's life. And so we puzzle about the vagaries and the unfairness and the sadness about so many of the deaths we report.

We're certainly puzzling over the horrific drowning of a mother and three of her kids - after she intentionally drove her minivan into the frigid Hudson River in the Orange County town of Newburgh last night. It's just so counterintuitive: Moms are supposed to fight like bears to protect their cubs. So what's going through a woman's head when she kills them? Lashanda Armstrong was 25 years old. But she had four children, including a 10-year-old boy, which means she had him when she was just 15.

Her youngest was 11 months old.

What was the mom thinking? What were the kids thinking? The younger ones, including a 5 and 2 year old, may not have understood. But the 10 year old did. He got the window down and climbed out. By the time he made it to a boat ramp, the car was under water. And so were his mom and siblings. We can just imagine what's in store for him. Or maybe we can't.

We're in Newburgh for tonight's 11 o'clock newscast, with the latest on this horrible tragedy, and with reaction from psychologists about the mindset of mom, and her lone surviving child.

Death's on my mind for personal reasons as well. The last surviving sibling of either my mother or my father died last night. My aunt Vickie was a tough gal and an important figure in my childhood. So now my brother and my cousins move up closer to the front of the bus, with no buffer generation between us and the door. Aunt Vickie's two sons, and her grandchildren, will bury her on Friday. I'll be with them.

It wasn't a "blink of an eye" for Vickie, because she had been not-well for some time. And because she wasn't young or cut-short in life, I won't, as Jackson Browne did, "feel stupid standing 'round."

But I will be standing there, with the descendants of my grandparents, crying as they ease her down. And taking a step forward on the bus.

Also at 11 tonight, we'll take a closer look at the battle over the federal budget. And a new wrinkle. The Congressional Budget Office late today estimated that the deal negotiated between Pres. Obama and House Speaker John Boehner doesn't really cut $38 billion in spending from the budget. Instead, it cuts about $352 million - less than 1 percent of the supposed cuts.

The House is set to vote tomorrow on what representatives thought was a $38 billion spending cut deal.

So what will Republicans do now?

Meanwhile, President Obama, trying to get ahead of the political parade, today offered nearly $4 trillion in spending cuts over the next 12 years. He also wants to end the Bush-era tax cuts for families making more than $200,000 a year.

Republicans want to extend those tax cuts - and cut spending nearly $6 trillion over the next decade. The battle is a long way from over.

Speaking of taxes - our David Novarro tonight takes a look at the looming income tax deadline, and offers 7 tips to avoid an audit. It's helpful, how-to information.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Meteorologist Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Rob Powers with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.


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