Jason Murphy: The reason the Dreamworld tragedy is so horrifying

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Flowers at Dreamworld where four people were killed following an accident on the Thunder River Rapids ride at the Gold Coast. Photo / Getty Images
Flowers at Dreamworld where four people were killed following an accident on the Thunder River Rapids ride at the Gold Coast. Photo / Getty Images

I'm supposed to write about economics and business, but the events of this week make that very hard. The tragedy at Dreamworld has been so enormous and the effect of it so widespread.

Some tragedies are local. This one is national. It feels like the whole nation is in shock and in mourning for what happened.

Why has this tragedy - among all of them - shot through to our hearts?

Part of the reason is it happened in a theme park, which makes the awfulness even clearer. In fiction, writers stage shocks amid the happiest moments for maximum effect. And indeed watching the news at first was like seeing some awful TV drama unfold. But soon it became far more personal than that.

So many of us have been to Dreamworld, or somewhere just like it.

Dreamworld has had 35 million people through the gates since it opened in 1981.

The Thunder River Rapids ride has been there since 1986.

I have strong childhood memories of that ride - queuing up all nervous and excited in the Gold Rush-themed wooden structure, getting wet from the splashes, then drying off in that hot Queensland weather. Millions of Aussies would have the exact same memories. For so many of us the tragedy feels personal.

Family is the big reason this tragedy has hit us all so very hard.

Memories of Dreamworld are tied up in memories of our families. Dreamworld is not a place teens hang out or somewhere adults go, leaving kids with a babysitter. It's a bit daggy (Dreamworld mascot Kenny Koala could never be accused of being hip or fashionable) but it's a place and time for families to be together, and many families don't have a lot of those.

That's what makes of this tragedy so especially hard to deal with. It's taken so many families and torn them apart.

Kim Dorsett lost two of her children.

The Araghi family lost one of theirs.

Ebony and Evie Goodchild lost their mother and uncle.

David Godchild lost his wife

Kieran and Isla Low lost their mother.

Matthew Low lost his wife.

The family that was Luke Dorsett and Roozi Araghi is gone.

Kim Dorsett's words after the tragedy were "It truly breaks my heart to know that my eight-month-old is never going to get to know her mum."

Nobody could have heard her and not felt hit by a lightning bolt of grief. Everyone who heard her thought of their relationship with their own mother, and how little Evie Goodchild will never have that.

The effect can be overwhelming.

But amid the grief, horror and confusion are the beginnings of recovery. There were early reports David Goodchild's wallet had been stolen in the chaos. Those reports, happily, were wrong. We work together when things go wrong.

What we actually saw was hundreds of people placing floral tributes, emergency services doing their very best and Red Cross volunteers working tirelessly to help people deal with the emotional and practical sides of the tragedy. Hundreds of people have donated to a page set up for Kate Goodchild's family.

Hundreds of families also came to a candlight vigil, where the Red Cross handed out "Trauma Teddies." These are knitted by volunteers Australia-wide and handed out to kids after events like these in order to help them feel comforted and to provide an opportunity for them to talk.

In hard times the community comes together - like a family - and helps.

Dreamworld can be part of the healing process itself if it opens up and tries to deal with what happened honestly. The initial plan to swiftly open up again after a singlememorial day seemed hasty. The classic first stage of grief is denial, and possibly Dreamworld executives were in that stage.

Since then the CEO agreed to donate her bonus, the company has made efforts to get in touch with victims' families, and the memorial before full reopening was cancelled. Instead the park, as of Friday, remains closed until further notice.

That makes sense. They can't swiftly go back to how things were. None of us can. Executives need to support staff and make sure the company treats everyone with the respect and patience you would extend to your own family in times of grief.

I also can't help thinking of the newlyweds that invited Luke, Kate and Roozi to their wedding. They were the reason those families travelled to Queensland. Their wedding anniversary will, every year, be sad as well as happy.

And that's the legacy of an event like this. It lasts a long time. The pain and the memory surges and ebbs for years.

Recovery will take time and go through many stages.

It is not about reversing the pain. Nobody can put things back the way they were and there will always be a scar. All those family tables will have an empty chair and our collective memories of Dreamworld will now be a mix of happy and sad forever. But it is about remembering the positives aspects of the lives of those who are gone and making the connections we have - especially family- even more strongly.

Its important Dreamworld acknowledge that and make sure there is - for many years to come - a space at the park for families to come to remember what happened. This can't be papered over.

- news.com.au

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