Thursday, January 21, 2010

Close To Home

"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...)


Melissa said...

Baruch Hashem that Yolesha is alright. I will be praying for her family, as well for everyone there.

itsagift said...

Wow. That was powerful.
It is true (and sad) that when we hear of a tragedy, it doesn't feel the same until we know someone involved. Then and only then do we take it to heart and really show that it touched us in some way.

After reading this, I got a whole new perspective on this crazy earthquake. Although I do not know anyone who was personally involved, I should still take a message from it and think about all those people who are waiting to hear from relatives and friends. And I can remind myself that I have a roof over my head, a safe home to live in and appreciate it all!

stam[azoid] said...

wow, thanks for that.

Mystery Woman said...

It's kinda like when you hear about a terrible car crash...and you think...well, they weren't wearing seat belts. Or someone diagnosed with lung cancer, and you think...well, he smoked.
It makes us feel like, somehow, we're in control...and this kinda thing won't happen to us.

Batya said...

It's said that thousands have just been plowed into graves.

I hope that Yolesha turns up well and healthy.

Erachet said...

I remember when 9/11 happened, the most horrifying moment for me was a few days later when I was in a small sock store in my neighborhood. It was run by a frum woman and there was one other person in the store besides the owner and me. That person, also a frum woman, was looking at hats and all of a sudden broke down hysterically sobbing because they never found her brother. She kept repeating in a choking voice, "Where is he? Where is he? Why didn't they find him?" The owner of the sock store immediately hugged her and they both stood there like that, one sobbing, the other soothing, and I backed slowly and silently out of the store without buying anything.

Something Different said...

Mellisa- Yes, baruch Hashem!

IAG- Glad you liked.

Stam- You're very welcome!

MW- Very true..

Batya- Thankfully, she did.