Chile, Haiti and…
As the images and information come in about the Chile earthquake, aftershocks and the resulting tsunamis, many of us are reminded of the earthquake in Haiti just over a month ago. All day, I’ve heard people comparing the two earthquakes (the Chile quake was perhaps 500x stronger than the Haiti quake). Of course, the most common question is, “Why was the damage so much less in Chile?”
That’s a question that can be pretty easily answered by anyone with knowledge of the two countries. Chile is located in the infamous “Ring of Fire”, where 90% of the world’s earthquakes occur. Yeah…90%. Haiti, on the other hand, is a country that hadn’t seen what could be considered a major earthquake since 1860 and not one of this magnitude in nearly 250 years. The Chilean people prepare for earthquakes. The Hatian people do not. Chilean buildings are made to withstand shaking (although many collapsed during this massive quake). Hatian buildings, many made of unreinforced concrete, crumbled under even modest shaking. So, the disproportionate amount of damage and casualties in Haiti is easy to understand, even if it’s difficult to swallow.
Unfortunately, there are still hundreds who lost their lives yesterday and hundreds of thousands who had to sleep outside last night. To them, the devastation is just as bad as Haiti. Their families will be forever changed by this event just like the families in Haiti. The big difference to you and me? This is not as “sexy” of a news story for the media to cover.
Is that an unfair assessment for me to make? Well, judging by the CNN coverage today that spent an hour showing a webcam in Hawaii waiting for a tsunami to hit (and the seeming disappointment by the anchors when nothing really happened), I think the news media will be done with this story in less than a week. It’s not going to make them money, not going to win them awards and not going to increase their ratings. So they will forget about it. And so will we.
Need proof? We’re already letting Haiti slip from our minds. Before yesterday, when was the last time you thought about Haiti? Did you think about the fact that millions are sleeping outside in the rain? Did you think about the separated families, the children stuck in UNICEF camps and those who can’t leave the country because of government corruption?
And even if you have thought about Haiti, has it dominate your thoughts and conversation like it did a month ago? Is it as real to you today as it was then? Sadly, probably not. I confess that even though I think about and pray for Haiti regularly, it has slipped from the forefront of my thoughts. How in the world did I let that happen when there is so much work still to be done?
And what about New Orleans (which is still rebuilding) or Indonesia? Yeah, remember Indonesia? Six years ago, a massive earthquake and the accompanying tsunami killed over 230,000 people (roughly the same as the Haiti quake). Before all the tsunami talk yesterday, when was the last time you thought about that deadly wave in Indonesia? Have you prayed recently for the countless number of people who lost loved-ones in that tragedy? Have you looked to see how you might be able to help the people in that region? Again, I confess that I hadn’t until today. (I found this article which outlines the rebuilding success and remaining challenges).
As eager as I am to help in Chile and Haiti, right now there isn’t much I can do. But in 6 months or a year or 5 years, when these people really need the kind of help I can provide, will I have forgotten them? Will I, like the media outlets that inform me, have moved on to the next disaster, political scandal or “sexy” news story? Wow, I hope not. God, help us to remember…and to lend a hand and a voice when others have forgotten.