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1 January 2005

The last count of dead from the tsunami that I heard was 125,000 and climbing, with knowledge that the total loss of lives will probably never be known.  125,000 is more than twice the size of the entire population of Davis.  It's like trying to understand the national debt--your mind can't wrap itself around that many dead bodies, that much anguish among the survivors.

The stories...the pain...the photos.

We weren't in the U.S. after 9/11 and missed most of the photographic coverage.  There is nothing to bring the enormity of the disaster home like the photos of parents clutching dead children, an old man wandering around vacantly, talking of the wife who was swept out of his arms and never seen again.   The photos on the wall.  The myriad of blogs that have popped up instantly, trying to find the missing.

Fred was first reported among the missing.  (He has since, apparently, communicated with friends that he's OK.)

Fred isn't a friend, really.   He's an acquaintance.  A guy I worked with in PFLAG for a few years, who moved to Thailand last year and lived in one of the areas that was reported to be hardest hit.   Knowing that someone I know was among the missing brought it closer to home.

But it doesn't really take a personal connection to the tragedy to feel unfathomable sorrow for what has been lost, and what will be lost as clean up begins and as the diseases they say are inevitable begin to set in.

I know earthquakes.  I grew up in San Francisco.  I know first hand what a 5+ earthquake feels like.  I can't begin to imagine what a 9+ earthquake feels like.  We sometimes feel we are so smug, having conquered so much in nature--but Mother Nature always has the upper hand.   As a friend of mine keeps saying "if you want to make God laugh, tell her what your plans are for tomorrow."

I have heard of tsunamis for years, our good friend Mike having been at the Tsunami Warning Station in Alaska, and then the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center for many years.  But knowing and understanding earthquakes and tsunamis are two entirely different things. 

It's the personal stories that bring the enormity of the tragedy home. I am haunted by the face of the little boy from (was it Germany?) who was reunited with his father in the hospital.  He looks shell-shocked and in fact, how could he not be?  The world as he knew it turned upside down, both literally and figuratively, separated from his parents, having lost his mother.

He is one of millions of like stories.  My heart goes out to each and every one of them.

Our president has once again managed to make me ashamed of being an American.  Couldn't interrupt his fishing trip to make a timely statement, and then the slap in the face of only $35 million pledged for aid.

I read today that one Catholic organization alone has pledged  $20 million. 

I came across this on someone's blog today and it says it very well, and explains where priorities are in our government...

  • On the defensive to the press for not interrupting his very important vacation to react to the tsunami in Asia, Bush defended the paltry $35 million in international aid to be divided up among the twelve nations.That's $2.9 million per nation, in case you needed help with the math. Bush figures that is being generous. Meanwhile, he intends to spent $40 million on the eight official inagural balls to be held January 20. That's more than twice as much for each party than he's sending out in total aid to devastated nations. Tickets to attend run between $150 and $50,000. Yes, Bush intends upon making money on the inagural. Is it me, or is there some misplaced priorities in the White House?
  • $35 million in international aid, and Bush says he's being generous. It's probably true. After all, he's still trying to hide the true cost of the war in Iraq by cutting expenses everywhere else in the budget. He's bankrupted the nation in four short years. $35 million represents somewhere between four and six HOURS of the Iraqi invasion costs.We can find $4 billion a month to piss away in Iraq battling a war we lost more than a year ago, but we can't find money for food and shelter and medicines for people devastated by a natural event. We ought to be ashamed.

Where the president has been slow to respond (though now trying to back-pedal and send his brother into the region; guess the fishing trip was finally over), the American people, always generous, have been quick to respond and money is pouring in for assistance.   Within three days the Red Cross alone collected $18 million from Americans--half of what the President first offered as assistance from the United States.

We will be sending our donations to the Red Cross, but simply writing a check seems like such a small thing in the face of such an enormous disaster. But what else can you do?

Please take the time to read this chilling piece

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Photo by Ron Cohn from Koko's Photo Blog
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