"When one man dies it's a tragedy. When a million men die, it's a statistic." -Joseph Stalin
I mentioned this quote in a previous post, but I feel it needs to be repeated here. You see, I am sitting here, thinking about last week's tragic earthquake in Haiti. My first reaction is that it's so far from home, I don't even have the emotional capacity to worry about it. If I want to worry about people in tragic circumstances, there's the family friend who's father is in a coma after being in a car accident last week. There is the neighbor who's wife passed away recently. There is the cousin with a brain tumor. There is plenty of tragedy for me to worry about right here, I don't need to look for depressing things to think about thousands of miles away in a country I have no connection to.
All of that changed on Sunday night. A friend of mine from work called up, frantic. "Did you hear about Yolesha?"
Yolesha is the cleaning woman that works for my company. She's a sweet black woman who always has a smile to share. Just about a week ago she had gone to visit her family in... Oh my gosh. In Haiti.
My voice quivered as I answered my friend. "No...?" I was scared to hear her answer.
"They haven't heard from her since the earthquake. Nobody knows if she's even alive."
I was stunned. Speechless. It hits me. This is what the death toll means. The raw feelings of terror. The nagging feeling of uncertainty. The pit in your stomach. Not once. Hundreds of thousands of times over. Each individual that is missing, that perished, that is injured...this is what it's like. All over the world, people cling to the phones with nervous anticipation. Worrying, waiting, hoping for a phone call that will end the terrifying uncertainty. Hour after hour, day after agonizing day, and the wait continues. Where is Yolesha? Is she ok? Will we ever see her bright smile again? Will we ever hear her call out a cheerful good morning as she gathers her cleaning supplies? Will families ever be reunited? Will people ever see their friends again?
Haiti doesn't see so far away anymore.
(Update: since I wrote this a few days ago, someone heard from Yolesha. She is ok, but most of her family isn't...)