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Canada: Two Fatal Jihadist Attacks in 48 Hours

Charles Pachter, "The Painted Flag." (1981) Charles Pachter, "The Painted Flag." (1981)

Yesterday I did something I normally never do:

I followed a breaking news story on Twitter.

I know better.

I'm always saying that eyewitness accounts are unreliable, and that for all we know, everyone's tweets are doing more harm than good.

But yesterday, I found it impossible not to launch my HootSuite dashboard, compulsively refresh my "best friends" column, and jump into the raging stream of information.

Since I have so many non-Canadian followers, I thought it would be helpful to try to put the breaking news into American terms:

Imagine, I tweeted, someone killing the honor guard at Arlington National Cemetery, then getting into an action-movie shootout in the marble halls of Congress, while the president and his Cabinet met in an unlocked room a few feet away.

It was harder to explain to Americans that the guy who took down the terrorist, the sergeant-at-arms, is best known for wearing a funny, archaic getup during government ceremonies. It's a fancy-pants job given to a distinguished older fellow -- Kevin Vickers is 58 -- as a kind of pre-retirement honor. Luckily, yesterday, Vickers had a handgun in his desk drawer...

Because that's what happened in Ottawa -- about a six hour drive from me -- yesterday.