Posts Tagged ‘earthquake’

Letter From New York August 25, 2014

August 25, 2014

Or, as it seems to me…

The day dawned grey and uninspiring. In a bit of time, the sun burning through the clouds transformed the day. The circular drive in front of the cottage is splattered with patches of sunlight and shadow as the light filters through the trees. My neighbor is peacefully mowing his grass and I am just back from a stroll around the circle that is Patroon Street. It is a quiet, lazy day in the Hudson Valley.

The news is, of course, not so peaceful. Saturday night was shattered in Napa, CA by an earthquake, magnitude 6.0, bringing down walls while human injury was, thankfully, low. There will be a lot of picking up and rebuilding going on. Markets found their goods tossed about, chimneys fell and water and gas mains broke; an early morning reminder that Mother Nature is capricious.

In Africa, dozens of aid workers slough on, undeterred by the continuing and mounting toll of Ebola dead. They need to be there so they are, acting with a quiet courage that is astounding and inspiring. They keep going, despite the risk, demonstrating a courage I wonder if I would have if I were in their place.

In Egypt, there are efforts being made to bring Israel and Hamas back to the table to get a ceasefire accomplished. While that is going on, rockets continue to be fired into Israel and Israel continues targeting suspected Hamas installations in Gaza. An eleven story apartment building in Gaza was destroyed, the largest building to be targeted so far. The conflict becomes more and more entrenched, both sides with legitimate grievances and a seeming inability to resolve them through negotiations. Hatred and fear run deep.

In Iraq, two suspected Shia militants marched into a Sunni mosque and killed dozens of worshipers, an act that seems to have stalled the installation of a coalition government in Baghdad, something seen as necessary for that fractured nation to pull together a cohesive front to battle ISIS, now controlling a large portion of old Iraq. They’re mostly Sunnis and they consider the Shia heretics.   Christians and other religious minorities must either convert or flee or die. 

Ronald Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress, published an op-ed piece a few days ago in the New York Times, wondering who was going to stand up for Christians in the world? In various parts of the world, including the Mid-East, Christians are being persecuted and being forced to become refugees to survive and there has been little acknowledgement in the world or by world leaders that this is becoming a major problem. The world is showing “relative indifference” to the deaths occurring among Christians in the Middle East and Africa, he posits.

And he does have a point. Much more attention was paid to the Yazidis than was paid to the poor Christians fleeing ISIS. The plight of Christians in Pakistan is ignored for the most part as it is in other parts of the world.

Yes, Christians did their damage as they proselytized the world the last two centuries but that’s not an excuse to turn our backs on anyone being denied religious freedom much less the freedom to live because of religious belief. We need to recognize all those being persecuted for their religion, including Christians, who seem to be getting short shrift in large portions of the globe right now.

 

 

 

 

 

Letter From New York August 25, 2014

August 25, 2014

Or, as it seems to me…

The day dawned grey and uninspiring. In a bit of time, the sun burning through the clouds transformed the day. The circular drive in front of the cottage is splattered with patches of sunlight and shadow as the light filters through the trees. My neighbor is peacefully mowing his grass and I am just back from a stroll around the circle that is Patroon Street. It is a quiet, lazy day in the Hudson Valley.

The news is, of course, not so peaceful. Saturday night was shattered in Napa, CA by an earthquake, magnitude 6.0, bringing down walls while human injury was, thankfully, low. There will be a lot of picking up and rebuilding going on. Markets found their goods tossed about, chimneys fell and water and gas mains broke; an early morning reminder that Mother Nature is capricious.

In Africa, dozens of aid workers slough on, undeterred by the continuing and mounting toll of Ebola dead. They need to be there so they are, acting with a quiet courage that is astounding and inspiring. They keep going, despite the risk, demonstrating a courage I wonder if I would have if I were in their place.

In Egypt, there are efforts being made to bring Israel and Hamas back to the table to get a ceasefire accomplished. While that is going on, rockets continue to be fired into Israel and Israel continues targeting suspected Hamas installations in Gaza. An eleven story apartment building in Gaza was destroyed, the largest building to be targeted so far. The conflict becomes more and more entrenched, both sides with legitimate grievances and a seeming inability to resolve them through negotiations. Hatred and fear run deep.

In Iraq, two suspected Shia militants marched into a Sunni mosque and killed dozens of worshipers, an act that seems to have stalled the installation of a coalition government in Baghdad, something seen as necessary for that fractured nation to pull together a cohesive front to battle ISIS, now controlling a large portion of old Iraq. They’re mostly Sunnis and they consider the Shia heretics.   Christians and other religious minorities must either convert or flee or die. 

Ronald Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress, published an op-ed piece a few days ago in the New York Times, wondering who was going to stand up for Christians in the world? In various parts of the world, including the Mid-East, Christians are being persecuted and being forced to become refugees to survive and there has been little acknowledgement in the world or by world leaders that this is becoming a major problem. The world is showing “relative indifference” to the deaths occurring among Christians in the Middle East and Africa, he posits.

And he does have a point. Much more attention was paid to the Yazidis than was paid to the poor Christians fleeing ISIS. The plight of Christians in Pakistan is ignored for the most part as it is in other parts of the world.

Yes, Christians did their damage as they proselytized the world the last two centuries but that’s not an excuse to turn our backs on anyone being denied religious freedom much less the freedom to live because of religious belief. We need to recognize all those being persecuted for their religion, including Christians, who seem to be getting short shrift in large portions of the globe right now.

 

 

 

 

 

Letter From New York, August 17, 2010

August 17, 2010

Or, as it seems to me…

I usually do a draft of my letter on Saturday or Sunday, mull it over, play with the words and then send it out on Tuesday. This past Saturday morning I was awake early, it was another beautiful day at the cottage and I had an impressive list of errands to run. The day started with perusing the news online. I was creating some witty things in my head to write about Steve Slater, the world’s favorite flight attendant gone berserk. He was, after all, the story of the hour. The blogoshpere was atwitter. It was something one could not not comment upon.

I spoke briefly with Torrey Townsend, head of the small team Odyssey had down in Haiti covering the earthquake six months after. He sounded in fine fettle. Lucia, his associate producer, had been down for a day but had bounced back. They had good things planned for filming. All was going well.

In the sun blessed day, with perfect temperatures and that soft wind blowing, I ran my errands. While I was weeding in the center patch I missed the phone ringing. Later I noticed I had missed a call from Lucia and that a colleague, Eric, had left me a message. Torrey, in the few hours since I had spoken with him, had collapsed with a high fever, gastroenterological distress and was hallucinating.

The lazy, lovely Saturday I was enjoying was shattered and in a moment I was engaged in the process of extracting a team from Haiti, one of them very ill and the other two very worried and scared. Torrey was the team leader and with him down…

It took me back to a moment some years ago now when I helped Brent and Craig Renaud get an assignment from Discovery Times [the now gone, much lamented network] to go cover the Iraq war, embedded with the Arkansas National Guard, returning, eventually, with an award winning ten hours of programming that is one of the things I am proudest of having been involved with. The day they got on the plane to Iraq, were on their way, I broke down and sobbed. Jon Alpert, the great documentarian, was on the phone with me. He too was fighting tears. We had worked for months to fulfill their wish to do this job and when we had succeeded, it came down crushingly, we had just put two wonderful young men into harm’s way and their was no guarantee they would come back safely.

When we learned Torrey was ill, hallucinating in Haiti, on a Saturday when the normal office infrastructure was unavailable to support us, I filled in. I had to. I had sent him there and in his moment of distress, it became my job to organize our getting him and his team out. SOS Emergency got him booked on a flight out on Sunday. I secured the last two seats on that flight for his team, thanking God for credit cards, internet access and the intervention of God that I could get those seats. I did not want him alone, sick, on that plane. We got Lucia focused into getting some local doctors to provide some care, which they did and which, it turned out, turned the tide.

There was huge frustration because I wasn’t on the ground, getting things done. I was on the tenuous tether of AT&T cell service. Each step we took helped me feel I was doing what was my responsibility to this young man and his team. They had gone willingly, even joyously, to Haiti.

Several times as we moved Torrey and team out of Haiti and back to the states and through the hospital and to the good news that he was on the mend and that the drugs given by the Haitian doctors had been good choices, that as relief came, I found tears near the edge of my eyes, grateful, as I had been when the Renaud brothers returned unscathed, while pondering the bond sensed when lives intersect, even briefly, in some crisis.

Letter From New York January 18, 2010

January 18, 2010

I know very little about Haiti.

I know it is reputedly the most impoverished country in the hemisphere.  I know French is the language and they won their freedom from the French at the beginning of the 19th Century.  I know Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic.  I know my mother stopped there on a cruise and was shocked by the level of poverty.  I know it suffered a catastrophic earthquake this past week, with destruction of a magnitude that is almost impossible to imagine.

It has been hard to put fingers to keyboard.  Every other event or situation this week has paled against the backdrop of this tragedy, a word that seems too soft for events in that poor country.  And I have not known what to say regarding Haiti.  Coming home last night and other nights this week I have been riveted to the news, watching the awful scene unfold in front of me on the television screen.  In a move that was different from my recent behavior, I found myself looking to the television screen rather than my computer screen for updates on events.  The catastrophe filled the airwaves and news channels were focused on Haitian events; visuals were not hard to find and this is a story of devastating visuals.

As is often the way, Americans have begun to donate money. Millions have been raised by texting the word “Haiti” to 90999, thus donating $10 to the American Red Cross via your cell phone bill; the sum is over $10,000,000 so far.  An acquaintance is flying to Haiti on Thursday with volunteers funded through the Clinton Foundation. All major organizations seem to be directing funds to Haiti

It is a story that has pushed all other stories away from the front page, below the fold.  Obama has pressed Clinton and Bush 2 into service to focus attention and raise funds for Haiti.  U.S. service men and women have arrived and are arriving to help maintain order, get supplies through the bottleneck at the airport and to provide desperately needed medical aid.  I watched reporters this morning discuss their reactions to what they’re seeing and they are overwhelmed, all saying they were witnessing the worst situation they have ever seen.

The loss of life is profound and may reach higher numbers than the death toll in the Chinese earthquake and it is in our own backyard, not all that far from our shores, inflicted upon people who have significantly less internal resources than the Chinese.

It is a tragedy of a depth I find hard to comprehend.  I was in Los Angeles for the 1994 Northridge earthquake and so have some base of experience yet I cannot imagine what this is like.  In Los Angeles, the earthquake struck a city that had evolved knowing it was vulnerable to earthquakes and so had built itself accordingly.  The destruction was terrible but mitigated by construction designed to survive and bolstered by an infrastructure that survived the earthquake and was able to respond.  In Port Au Prince the city was not built to earthquake standards and has little social service infrastructure that seems to have survived the quake.

This is the kind of cataclysm that results in men and women of faith looking skyward and wondering where is God in all of this?  It is the common result of any tragedy, of events in life that seem unfair and unjust.   It is devastation not often seen on such a scale and it will live with all of us for a long time to come, reminding us of the fragility of life and the power of nature and, hopefully, the resilience of the human spirit to rise above tragedy and, at the end, come to peace with it.