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The media and pop culture have given us an idea of what death is like.  When it's the bad guys they jerk from side to side like each bullet is pushing them backwards another inch and then slump onto the ground as they fling their gun to the side.  The good guys stay alive just long enough to say a final goodbye.  In a video game, legs and arms go sprawling the instant death strikes with a lot of tumbling of the body for good measure.  In dramas the sick relative dies surrounded by loving family members and with their hand being held by someone tearfully sitting in a chair.


The first time I saw someone die wasn't like any of that.  I was watching Frontline, the story they covered being too controversial for the mainstream media.  It was a metareport about the change in the way war reporting has been done in our War on Terror compared to previous wars.  The first person I saw die was an Iraqi fighting to kill American soldiers.

He was a young man with thick black hair.  He was wearing a beat up t-shirt, blue jeans and a pair of sandals and would have passed as a respectably dressed college student in the streets of any city.  There was no keffiyeh or ghutra on his head nor was he wearing long white robes like the stereotypes would have you believe.  He was in his early twenties; old enough to know that he was not invincible.  All of this I saw on the screen as he ran out of a doorway on the opposite side of the street, RPG bouncing on his shoulder.  The camera shook as it was rearranged to get a better view out of the darkened building where the reporter was hiding.  The man knelt down in the middle of the street and began to aim the rocket.  Small puffs of dust erupted out of the street as a few, surprisingly few, metal slugs pounded their way through flesh into the ground. Without a sound, the weapon slid off his shoulder unfired and he slowly leaned backwards until he was laying on the street.

People don't flail when they die.

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