Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Disasters

About eight months after Hurricane Katrina, my family flew to California. We had a layover in Denver, and as I sat in the airport, I could feel something. Something different. I turned to my husband and said "It's weird here. These people. It's weird. You can tell they haven't been through a disaster."

The air was different. The lines of worry on people's faces were different. The way they walked and greeted each other and spoke on the phone. It was different.

When we actually touched down in California and visited with our friends there, it was even more obvious. To them the Hurricane was now nothing more than an occasional afterthought. Nearly everyone asked how things were going in New Orleans, of course, but no one really wanted to hear about it. They didn't want to hear about the lack of progress, the people still without homes, the stalling insurance companies, the stalling government. For us the recovery was front page news, everyday. It still is. For them, it was over, for the most part.

We found it very difficult.

Now I sit here half a world away from 2 natural disasters, disasters far greater than Katrina. Higher death tolls. Higher injuries. More people lost. One government who won't even accept foreign aid, or wants to control it.

My heart is breaking. For I know, in a small, small way, the pain, the confusion, and the long road ahead for the survivors and the relief givers. And yet I sit on my porch, with a glass of iced tea and my lap top. Stressed about the planning I have yet to do for Vacation Bible School. Preparing for an audition this weekend. Looking forward to a trip to visit friends and family this summer.

And half a world away things are very, very different. It is not an afterthought. It is not someone else's problem. It is very, very real. It is unavoidable. It is horrific. There will be moments of extreme grace and heroism. There will be corruption and people taking advantage. There will be no escaping it.

I feel broken, yet relieved. Powerless and hypocritical. Lost.

23 comments:

Kate said...

i'm so sorry you feel this way, I have never experienced anything like Katrina however it does not take much to realise how horrific it must have been for everyone affected, I can sympathise with the feeling of helplessness, it is events like this that make you realise how small we are and how powerless.

Beck said...

After something very bad happened, I found myself mentally measuring people for years afterwards, judging them to see if they'd been through anything as awful. It was a terrible feeling.
And yes, my heart aches for those people so far away, too.

womaninawindow said...

It's like we all only have enough sympathy for a 5 second sound bit of misery, isn't it? Don't know what else to say...there's so much misery to keep up with. It's all so overwhelming...

imbeingheldhostage said...

This has been hitting me the same way. I see the images on the television, but the reality of it never kicks in. I've informed my kids of what's happening (not in a doom and gloom way, just a "be aware of the world" way), but I feel numb watching it all. The worst thing is when the radio stations over here started doing these "Aid For Burma" drives and I kept thinking, "Why? They'll never get it".
It's a sad sad week.

thailandchani said...

It is very difficult to watch.. and I've been involved in trying to find a way to get aid that won't involve governments. It seems that most people in SEA are using the monks. They can cross the border and get aid directly to those affected.

Honestly, I felt far more helpless during Katrina because of the additional factors.

Kathryn said...

Exactly! I think about this so much. There is so much suffering in this world it sometimes seems unfair to even be happy. And even beyond natural disasters. The wars going on in the world RIGHT NOW. Not just in Iraq (the one we know about because we are involved) but all over Africa in so many small countries that no one ever talks about. And the famine. And the diseases. So many people suffering. Sometimes I don't know what to do with myself. Pray. I guess we just pray.

Beautiful post.

Alex Elliot said...

What you wrote is very true. I would like to believe not that it's in the nature of people, but rather it's hard to grasp the gravity of the situation if you are fortunate enough not to be part of it. I have to say that I saw all the photos from 911, but when I actually visited ground zero a year and half later, it was really different than I thought it would be. Posts like this one are important because they let us know what it's like.

jen said...

oh honey. i know.

i know.

susiej said...

I'm sure this tragedy, and all that follow, is touching you so deeply. It makes is so clear how the lines are drawn between those who have and have not. Devastating to observe this... Can't even imagine living without fresh water... trying to keep my kids alive.

slouching mom said...

it is terrible. really terrible.

MamaGeek said...

It darkens my heart too. I can NOT begin to imagine (a) the magnitude and (b) the suffering.

carrie said...

I know.

carrie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Family Adventure said...

I don't know how to comment on this one in a small space, but suffice to say that I totally get this post...

Heidi

Family Adventure said...

I don't know how to comment on this one in a small space, but suffice to say that I totally get this post...

Heidi

Christine said...

you heart is so big, so good, so loving.

this disaster has me so, so sad.

Jennifer said...

My heart is aching too. And my head is spinning with the same thoughts. The world can feel so small and so big all at once.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

What a powerful post, PM! I think some of the reason that people can't or don't seem sympathetic is that some disasters are beyond imagining. For me, it was Katrina, not 911, that forever changed my image of our country. The way the government DIDN'T step in, the way people were treated like animals, the fact that clearly because so many "have nots" were involved Katrina was never the priority that it should have been.

I still can't fathom it. And what's gone on in Myanmar is completely beyond imagining for me.

E said...

Yes but you do your part. I know you do. I can tell by the way you write that you live with compassion and love.
And that's what we can all do. Our part sometimes seems miniscule and yet it isn't... to soemone. My gram used to say "Lord make me a blessing to someone today"
I say it too. It is my little prayer, a mantra. And you know when you have done it that you have made one little difference to someone, somewhere.
The love bits are after all, all we have

wheelsonthebus said...

If we were to feel each world tragedy as deeply as if it were happening to us, we would be paralyzed and unable to help anyone, ever.

Angela said...

Such a good post!!!! I felt this way after things 'settled' after 9/11, as well as Katrina. My heart broke for the thousands of families that lost someone. The Myanmar tragedy is really beyond comprehension for me. It's all very heartbreaking.

Amy Y said...

I have never experienced a natural disaster... well, nothing worse than a tornado that destroyed houses but no people. I can't imagine what it must feel like... I, too, feel helpless and worthless as I go along with my life distaster~free.

Bayou Belle said...

you caught me off guard with teh beginning of this post. but then, I got to thinking. I felt so different after katrina. I remember I couldn't go home for christmas that year. I just couldn't leave my wounded home, family, neighbors, community - it was weird. I needed to remain here. Then, I went to Dallas in January and felt out of place so to speak. Same thing. People asked about New Orleans (and still do) but seemed slightly tired of the story. It is still a prominent part of our lives - especially after last night and today's storm. It brought back a lot of feelings and brought on anxiety!